Incident Summary:

03/23/1998: In Colombia, fifty members of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) kidnapped four Americans and one Italian, at a roadblock set up 35 miles south of Bogota, as they returned from a hummingbird-watching trip. Further, an additional 32 Colombians were kidnapped at the roadblock and at least three people were killed and another 14 were wounded in the attack. The FARC commander threatened to kill the Americans if they were determined to be spies for the CIA or the Drug Enforcement Administration, but the foreign kidnapped victims and at least ten of the Colombian victims were later released, as detailed in the Additional Comments section.




South America

region/u.s. state:


Guayabetal district

Location Details:
This incident occurred at a roadblock set up 35 miles south of Bogota.

Attack Information
Type of Attack (more) Armed Assault
Type of Attack (more) Hostage Taking (Kidnapping)
Successful Attack? (more) Yes
Target Information (more)
Target Type: Private Citizens & Property
Name of Entity Civilians
Specific Description Colombian Civilians
Nationality of Target Colombia
Target Type: Tourists
Name of Entity Bird-watchers from the U.S.
Specific Description Peter Chen
Nationality of Target United States
Target Type: Tourists
Name of Entity Bird-watcher from Italy
Specific Description Vito Candela
Nationality of Target Italy
Additional Information
Hostages Yes
Number of Hostages 37
US Hostages 4
Days of Kidnapping 33
Outcome Combination
Ransom No
Property Damage No
Weapon Information
Type Sub-type
Additional Information
Suicide Attack?No
Part of Multiple Incident?No
Criterion 1 (more) Yes
Criterion 2 (more) Yes
Criterion 3 (more) Yes
Doubt Terrorism Proper (more) No
Additional Information In addition to American Peter Chen and Italian Vito Candela, the following American citizens were targeted and kidnapped by the FARC: Todd Mark, Thomas Fiore, and Louise Augustine. Among the Colombian hostages, one included the acting president of the National Electoral Council (CNE); he was freed on March 25. On March 27, the rebels freed nine kidnapped Colombians. On April 2, Fiore arrived in Bogota after local journalists found him wandering in the mountains; it was undetermined if he had escaped or been set free. On April 15, Candela was released. In return for the remainder of the hostages' freedom, the Colombian media agreed to broadcast a rebel communique denouncing the U.S.' ongoing intervention in the Colombian guerrilla war. On April 24, Augustine was released to a Red Cross delegation outside Los Alpes, where she reported that she almost died two weeks into her captivity when she fell 130 feet into a ravine. The remaining two Americans, Chen and Mark, were released to Red Cross officials in Los Alpes on April 25; they also reported abuse and threats against their lives during their captivity. The outcome for the rest of the Colombian hostages was unclear. Please note that the Days of Kidnapping/Hostage Incident recorded here denotes the duration of the incident; that is, from when the victims were first taken hostage (March 23) to when the last hostage known to be released was released (April 25).
Perpetrator Group Information
Group Name Claimed Responsibility
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) No
Perpetrator Statistics
Number of Perpetrators 50
Number of Captured Perpetrators Unknown
Casualty Information
Total Number of Casualties 3 Fatalities / 14 Injured
Total Number of Fatalities 3
Number of U.S. Fatalities 0
Number of Perpetrator Fatalities 0
Total Number of Injured 14
Number of U.S. Injured Unknown
Number of Perpetrators Injured 0
Edward F. Mickolus, Terrorism, 1996-2001: A Chronology, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2002.