BOGOTA, Colombia -- Colombian rebels have freed former U.S. Marine Kevin Scott Sutay after holding him hostage since June, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which handled the release.
Sutay was backpacking in eastern Guaviare province when he was seized by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. He is said to be in good physical condition, according to a Red Cross statement. The rebels initially described Sutay as a "mercenary," but announced their intention to release him last month.
"We’re happy to have facilitated the release so that [Sutay] can reunite with his family," said Jordi Raich, who heads the Red Cross delegation in Colombia. His release took place in the township of Tomachipan, not far from where he was taken.
In a statement Sunday, Secretary of State John F. Kerry thanked the Red Cross and the governments of Colombia, Norway and Cuba for bringing about the release. He also thanked the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who got involved in Sutay’s case after he attended an international convention in Cali that brought together global leaders who are African descendants.
Sutay, 27, an Afghan war veteran, was on a 250-mile hike across remote jungle flatlands when he was taken by the units of the FARC’s 1st Front. Local police warned him that the trip was dangerous and advised him not to go.
The former Marine is expected to be received by officials from the U.S. Embassy in Bogota on Sunday and given a thorough medical exam before he returns home.
The kidnapping took place near the site in Guaviare where in 2008 three U.S. defense contractors, the former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and others were rescued from rebels in a daring raid by Colombian commandos impersonating humanitarian workers.
Kraul is a Bogota-based special correspondent