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Friday, April 1 2005 Associated Press BOGOTA, Colombia ? Five U.S Army soldiers are under investigation for allegedly trying to smuggle 32 pounds of cocaine out of Colombia (search) aboard a U.S. military aircraft, American officials said Thursday.
The soldiers were detained Tuesday as a result of the investigation, said Lt. Col. Eduardo Villavicencio, a spokesman for the U.S. military's Southern Command in Florida.
He would not disclose where the five are being held, other than "in the United States."
"The Department of Defense is working closely with Colombian authorities and U.S. law enforcement to conduct a thorough investigation," William Wood, the U.S. ambassador to Colombia, said in a statement. "I congratulate our law enforcement agencies for their excellent cooperation in uncovering this drug smuggling scheme." The embassy declined further comment.
Colombia's Defense Ministry confirmed an investigation was underway, but wouldn't discuss details of the case.
The United States has provided more than $3 billion in aid over the past four years to help Colombia battle Marxist rebels and drug trafficking that fuels the 40-year-old insurgency.
Up to 800 U.S. troops are permitted in Colombia, according to U.S. law, to train Colombian armed forces and to provide logistical support. Up to 600 Americans are also permitted in the country as U.S. government contractors.