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Colombia arrests 2 U.S. soldiers

Government: Americans planned to supply arms to paramilitaries

From Karl Penhaul

United States

BOGOTA, Colombia (CNN) -- Colombian police said Wednesday that they have detained two U.S. soldiers allegedly involved in an arms-smuggling plot.

The head of the Colombian police, Gen. Jorge Daniel Castro, told reporters that in addition to the two soldiers, a former Colombian military officer was also detained during the raid Tuesday by government troops.

The raid targeted a house in a town 43 miles (70 kilometers) southwest of the capital, Bogota, and netted 22,000 rounds of assault rifle ammunition, Castro said.

Police sources said they suspect the rounds were intended for outlawed right-wing paramilitary forces.

In a brief statement, the U.S. Embassy confirmed the detentions. Neither the soldiers nor their ranks have been identified publicly.

Asked by a reporter about the alleged sales to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, "We are discussing the circumstances of their detention with Colombian authorities, but do not have any additional information to provide at this time."

The State Department has listed that paramilitary organization as a terrorist group.

The scandal is the second in a month to involve U.S. soldiers in Colombia.

In April, five U.S. soldiers from an anti-narcotics base in eastern Colombia were detained upon arrival in the United States carrying 18 kilograms of cocaine.

Most U.S. soldiers in Colombia are military advisers drawn from the elite Special Forces or Rangers units and are sent to train Colombian counter-narcotics and anti-insurgency forces.

The United States has invested $1.3 billion dollars in assistance to support Colombia's plan to achieve peace, fight crime and improve government. The State Department has said that 90 percent of the cocaine and most of the heroin in the U.S. market comes from Colombia, at a cost of $110 billion a year.

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