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Colombian rebels free U.S. Army veteran

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By The Associated Press
Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013, 8:21 p.m.

BOGOTA — Colombia's main leftist rebel group on Sunday released a former U.S. Army private whom the guerrillas seized in June when he refused to heed local officials' warnings and wandered into rebel-held territory.

Kevin Scott Sutay, who is in his late 20s, was quietly turned over to Cuban and Norwegian officials along with the International Committee of the Red Cross in the same southeastern region where he had disappeared four months earlier.

Secretary of State John Kerry immediately thanked Colombia's government in a statement for its “tireless efforts” in securing the Afghanistan war veteran's release. He thanked the Rev. Jesse Jackson for advocating it.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, had said it was abandoning kidnapping as a condition for the triggering of peace talks that began 11 months ago to end a half-century internal conflict. Cuba and Norway are facilitators in those talks.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos resisted FARC efforts to make what he deemed a “media show” of Sutay's release, and no images were released of the jungle handover or of his reported late morning arrival in Bogota, the capital.

The rebels first announced in July their intention to free Sutay as a good-faith gesture, but the liberation was delayed.

On Oct. 8, the FARC published on its website what it billed as a recounting of Sutay's life in his own words that it prefaced by describing him not as the U.S. agent it originally suspected but rather a vagabond traveler — “a classic gringo, a gum-chewer and marijuana smoker, who with backpack on his back, blue jeans and a few dollars in his pocket lights out to know and travel the world.”

Santos' firmness on prohibiting a ceremonial release included objecting to the FARC-endorsed intercession of Jackson, who met with rebel leaders in Cuba in late September and said then that he would go to Colombia to lobby on behalf of Sutay's release.

Sutay was delivered to U.S. government representatives at Bogota's airport, according to a statement issued by the Cuban and Norwegian embassies.

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