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U.S. Drug Crop Duster Crashes in Colombia

September 21, 2003

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ A U.S. plane crashed while fumigating cocaine-producing crops in volatile northern Colombia on Sunday, the army said. Officials did not yet know the fate of the pilot, a Costa Rican.

Government troops were trying to get to the crash site in the area of coca crops, called Catatumbo. Authorities were investigating if rebels shot down the plane, though they said the weather was poor at the time of the crash.

``We’re not discarding any possibility yet,″ army Gen. Jairo Duvan Pineda told RCN Television. ``What we do know is there is very bad weather in the area.″

Rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, are fighting for control of Catatumbo against the army, another rebel group and outlawed paramilitary fighters.

Colombia is the world’s biggest producer of cocaine, and the coca crops generate huge profits for the illegal groups.

The U.S. government has given billions of dollars in aid and training to the Colombian military to support its nearly four-decade war against leftist rebels and to wipe out cocaine and heroin production.

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