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Subpoenaed: three Americans re: Colombian Bombin

by Phil StewartBOGOTA, Colombia (Reuters) Friday, Jun. 22, 2001 at 9:47 AM

[ and you'll be glad to know DYNCORP was the mercenary group subcontracted by the Pentagon ] Authorities have subpoenaed three Americans to testify about the Colombian air force's bombing of a small town in 1998, which killed 17 civilians and injured more than 30....

By Phil StewartBOGOTA, Colombia (Reuters) - Authorities have subpoenaed three

Americans to testify about the Colombian air force's bombing of a small town

in 1998, which killed 17 civilians and injured more than 30 others, judicial

sources said. The Colombian air force pilots suspected of bombing the town

have told a military court investigating the incident that three privately

contracted U.S. pilots flying a surveillance aircraft for Florida-based

AirScan International Inc. passed on coordinates for the attack, the judicial

sources told Reuters Wednesday. Five children were among the 17 civilians

killed, and the number of people injured is believed to have been at least

30. Colombian authorities have been looking into the December 1998 incident

since last November. The air force originally blamed the country's largest

rebel force, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), for the

civilian deaths. It said the guerrillas had detonated a car bomb in the town

of Santo Domingo de Tame, near the border with Venezuela. But later

investigation showed that the killings resulted from U.S.-made explosives,

possibly cluster bombs, dropped from a Colombian air force helicopter. The

judicial sources told Reuters that the three American pilots were no longer

believed to be in Colombia. The next step would be for Colombian authorities

to contact the State Department for help in obtaining depositions from them,

the sources said. COMPANY MONITORED PIPELINE AirScan International said it

was responsible at the time for monitoring the Cano Limon oil pipeline in

northeastern Colombia and reported rebel activity to "the oil company."

U.S.-based Occidental Petroleum Inc. operates the Cano Limon oil field, and

state oil firm Ecopetrol runs the pipeline, which Marxist guerrillas fighting

in Colombia's 37-year-old war have regularly bombed for years. "If we saw

something that needed to be reported, we reported it through the oil company,

and what was reported from there was the oil company's business," a senior

AirScan official, who declined to be named, told Reuters in a telephone

interview. He did not say if he was referring to Occidental or Ecopetrol. He

said the pilots, who no longer work for AirScan, flew a four-seat Cessna 337

Skymaster aircraft, equipped with radar and video recording equipment.

AirScan ceased operations in Colombia in early 1999, transferring the

monitoring job to the country's air force. A U.S. Embassy source told Reuters

that U.S. citizens were contracted to pilot the plane but said they were not

in any way affiliated with the U.S. military. "We understand that there were

U.S. citizens that were contracted to pilot the plane for pipeline security.

At no time has the U.S. government provided any military or contract support

to petroleum companies in Colombia," the source said. GENERAL GAVE DIFFERENT

ACCOUNT Colombian air force Gen. Hector Fabio Velasco said earlier on

Wednesday that the Skymaster was the property of the Colombian Air Force and

had been piloted by Colombians. Occidental said that it had allowed AirScan

to use an on-site landing strip but AirScan would have passed on any

coordinates directly to the air force or Ecopetrol. "This was in the hands of

Ecopetrol and the air force. ... We had no contract relationship with AirScan

in December 1998," an Occidental spokesman told Reuters. Two years after the

bombing, in December 2000, the United States began pouring more than

billion into President Andres Pastrana's Plan Colombia anti-cocaine

offensive. Critics say Plan Colombia could drag the United States into a

Vietnam-style conflict. U.S. officials point out that the offensive does not

target guerrillas and that they have no personnel directly involved in the

fighting. But American civilians hired by DynCorp, a major Pentagon

contractor based in Reston, Virginia, were fired on by rebels earlier this

year while being rescued by a State Department helicopter after a failed

herbicide-spraying mission. And Americans were involved in the accidental

killing of a 35-year-old missionary and her 7-month-old daughter in April in

Peru when a missionary plane was shot down after a Peruvian air force fighter

acted on a tip from a CIA anti-drug surveillance plane. Such surveillance

flights in Peru and Colombia have since been suspended.


Forwarded as information only; no endorsement to be presumed.

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doctrine of international copyright law, any copyrighted work in this message

is distributed under fair use without profit or payment to those who have

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