BOGOTA, Colombia – A Colombian rebel suspected in the murders of three Americans was flown under heavy security to the United States Wednesday -- the first guerrilla extradited by Colombia (search) to face U.S. justice.
Nelson Vargas Rueda, a member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (search), has been accused in the 1999 execution-style murders of Terence Freitas, 24, of Los Angeles; Ingrid Washinawatok, 41, of New York City; and Lahe'ena'e Gay, 39, of Pahoa, Hawaii.
The Americans were in Colombia to help set up a school system for the 5,000-member U'wa Indian tribe, in the vast eastern plains bordering Venezuela (search). Rebels kidnapped them in February 1999 and later shot them to death. Their bodies were found across the border in Venezuela.
Police helicopters transported Vargas from jail to Bogota's international airport, where FBI agents took him in custody for the flight, the police said.
The U.S. Justice Department said Vargas bound for Miami, where he would probably make a court appearance on Thursday.
Vargas is one of six members of the FARC, as the rebel group is known by its Spanish acronym, indicted in April 2002 in federal court in Washington, D.C. for the murders.
The FARC has admitted its fighters killed the Americans, and blamed a rogue lower-level commander, saying he would be punished by the insurgent group.
The United States has listed the FARC as an international terrorist organization and has provided Colombia with millions of dollars, mostly military aid, to fight the guerrillas.
The United States has also asked for the extradition of several other FARC rebels, including top leaders, in connection with drug trafficking cases.