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USCOLOMBIA 02-12

Four years in captivity

The fourth anniversary of the crash and kidnapping of three U.S. defense contractors by leftist rebels in Colombia today might have passed unnoticed if not for the recent rescues of two Colombians kidnapped long ago.

The rescues of the two Colombians revived a never-ending debate here over the use of military force to try and free kidnap victims, running the risk they could be killed, negotiating a prisoner swap or paying a ransom.

A rescue attempt "would be a death sentence for my son, his colleagues and the rest of the hostages," said Jo Rosano, the outspoken mother of Marc Gonsalves, a Florida Keys resident captured by guerrillas along with Thomas Howes, who grew up in Cape Cod, and Keith Stansell, who has two children living in Georgia.

They were working for a subsidiary of defense contractor Northrup Grumman,when their airplane crashed in southern Colombia. Their plane was locating clusters of coca crops, the raw material of cocaine. They are now the longest held U.S. government hostages in the world.

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