US Plane Crashes in Colombia - 14 February, 2003 - News

Five fear dead. The aircraft was flying over areas controlled by rebel forces

A US government plane carrying five people crashed on Thursday in a jungle area in southern Colombia controlled by Marxist rebels and it was not known if anyone survived. The plan was under secret intelligence orders, close to the military base of Larandia, Colombian military sources reported.

Civil aviation official said four Americans and one Colombian were aboard the plane, but State Department spokesman Charles Barclay said he could not confirm the nationalities and that a search and rescue mission was under way. Colombian troops found the plane, which according to witnesses was completely burned, but no trace of crew was found.

The plane, described by Barclay as a single-engine Cessna 208, crashed as it was attempting an emergency landing caused by engine failure, US Embassy officials in Bogota said. "The plane crashed near Florencia while attempting an emergency landing at about 9 a.m.," a US Embassy official told Reuters.

The United States has spent about $2 billion in mostly military aid in recent years to help the war-torn Andean nation destroy the world's largest cocaine industry. A large chunk of the US aid is spent in aerial spraying of drug crops.

Rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, country's largest guerrilla group, control large parts of Caqueta. Washington brands FARCs as a "terrorist" organization, but Latin American countries prefer not to use such denomination.

Hernan Etchaleco PRAVDA.Ru Argentina

Photo: Cessna 208. A similar aircraft crashed in the Colombian jungle on Thursday.

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