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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 October, 2003, 23:35 GMT 00:35 UK
Colombia rebels down anti-drug plane
Crop-spraying plane
The Colombian Government is trying to eradicate drug crops
The United States has confirmed that an anti-drug plane that crashed in Colombia last month was shot down by hostile fire.

Rebels of the left-wing ELN said on Thursday that they had downed the US-owned aircraft, which crashed on 21 September.

A State Department spokeswoman in Washington told BBC News Online that the plane crashed in the Norte de Santandar region, killing its Costa Rican pilot.

"Preliminary information indicates it was struck by hostile ground fire," she said.

US-owned planes regularly spray suspected coca plantations in Colombia in an effort to stamp out the supply of cocaine.

The previous plane to be shot down crashed on 25 August, the spokeswoman said.

She said 320 rounds of hostile fire had hit spray aircraft this year.

The State Department says the increase in hostile fire indicates that the spray missions have been achieving their objective.

Search-and-rescue craft accompany the spray missions, the spokeswoman said.

Colombia hails drug crop drop
18 Sep 03  |  Americas
Court halts drug crop spraying
27 Jun 03  |  Americas
Q&A: US involvement in Colombia
24 Apr 02  |  Americas
Country profile: Colombia
12 Jul 03  |  Country profiles

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