BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ An American geologist was found dead on Tuesday, nearly three months after being kidnapped by armed men while working at a coal mine.

The body of Frank Pescatori was found in a rural area of northern Colombia that is a guerrilla stronghold, said a major at national police headquarters in Bogota who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Details on the circumstances of the body's discovery were unknown, the major said. The body, which had been shot, was found in San Juan del Cesar some 50 miles south of where Pescatori had been kidnapped.

Pescatori was seized on Dec. 10 by five armed men at the Roche-Chancleta coal mine, part of the Cerrejon complex, in Hato Nuevo. The 40-year-old employee of Geomet Inc. of Bessemer, Ala., was a native of New Jersey.

Police said at the time that it was not clear whether Pescatori was seized by guerrillas or common criminals.

The area where the body was found is a stronghold of both the National Liberation Army and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia the country's two leading rebel groups.

Colombia has the world's highest kidnapping rate, and foreigners often are targeted because they fetch large ransoms.

There was no immediate word on whether a ransom had been demanded for Pescatori, and U.S. Embassy officials said they did not yet have any information.

At least 45 foreigners were abducted in Colombia last year and more than $160 million in ransoms were paid in the first 10 months of 1996, according to the national anti-kidnapping Fundacion Pais Libre, or Free Country Foundation.

Two in five kidnappings are carried out by guerrillas, with common criminals responsible for most of the rest.