BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) – A member of Colombia’s largest rebel group has been captured in neighboring Venezuela and is wanted for his role in the kidnapping and killing of three Americans in 1999, Colombian police said Thursday.
William Alberto Asprilla, also known as “Marquetaliano,” was detained Wednesday while on the road between Caracas and the nearby port of La Guaira, said Gen. Carlos Mena, director of Colombia’s judicial police.
Colombian police described the 62-year-old as a midlevel leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and also one of the group’s oldest members.
Colombian authorities believe Asprilla was in Venezuela the past six months doing “support work” for the rebels, Mena said, without elaborating.
He said Venezuelan authorities had cooperated in detaining Asprilla. It was unclear how he had been located.
Venezuelan officials had no immediate reaction to the announcement by Colombian authorities. Justice Ministry officials in Caracas did not respond to a call seeking comment.
Colombia had issued an international order for Asprilla’s arrest through Interpol. He is wanted on charges including rebellion, kidnapping and conspiracy, among others, Mena said.
He said Asprilla was very close to Jorge “Mono Jojoy” Briceno, the FARC’s military chief, who was killed in a 2010 army attack.
Mena said the two men, along with Briceno’s brother German Briceno, planned the kidnapping and subsequent killings of three American pro-Indian activists in 1999.
The bodies of Terence Freitas, 24, of Los Angeles; Ingrid Washinawatok, 41, of New York; and Lahe’ena’e Gay, 39, of Pahoa, Hawaii, were found in a Venezuelan pasture just across the Colombian border on March 5, 1999, one week after they were kidnapped. The three had been in Colombia to help set up a school system for the U’wa Indian tribe.
FARC leaders said afterward that the guerrillas who kidnapped and killed the trio thought they were spies. The rebel group denied that senior FARC commanders had any role in ordering the Americans abducted and killed.
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