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Details emerge about U.S. veteran held by Colombian rebels

From Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent
July 22, 2013 -- Updated 1538 GMT (2338 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • An American who Colombia rebels say they're holding is a former soldier
  • The rebels claim to have captured Kevin Scott Sutay last month
  • They say they will free him as a gesture of good will
  • Sutay is an Afghanistan War veteran, the Defense Department says

(CNN) -- New details emerged Monday about a former American soldier that Colombian rebels have said they are holding hostage and plan to release.

Kevin Scott Sutay served in the U.S. Army from November 2009 to March 2013 and deployed to Afghanistan from November 2010 to November 2011, according to the U.S. Defense Department.

He is from Willow Spring, North Carolina, and won a number of awards, including an Army Commendation Medal and a National Defense Service Medal. The Pentagon lists his rank as private.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia said in a statement on Friday that it had been holding Sutay for about a month and would free him as a gesture of good will.

The rebels described him as an American soldier, saying they would release him as a "gesture" to advance peace talks. They pointed to his capture to back up accusations that the U.S. military is operating in their country.

A State Department official said over the weekend the United States was aware of reports that an American citizen had been kidnapped and was working with Colombian authorities to get more information.

Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon criticized the apparent kidnapping and called for his immediate release. But he also noted that the American had been warned to be cautious and avoid certain areas.

"The information that we have collected indicates that this American citizen came to this area of the country and even at the time the police warned him not to enter certain areas," Pinzon said.

The rebels, who have been at war with the Colombian government for decades, said they captured Sutay on June 20 after he entered Colombia after going through Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica and Nicaragua. They did not provide specifics on the circumstances of his capture.

FARC said it hopes his release will boost peace talks between the government and rebels, and is asking for Colombian and Red Cross delegates to pick him up.

The government initiated preliminary peace talks last year.

Pinzon said the apparent kidnapping showed the rebel group's promises have been disingenuous in the past.

"This organization had promised not to kidnap and they kidnapped an ordinary citizen," he said. "It is absurd that they continue abusing with promises that, it seems, continue to be false."

CNN's Jamie Crawford and Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.

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