Solving the mystery of where three kidnapped U.S. missionaries have been hidden for seven years—or whether they are still alive—may rest in the hands of a guerrilla leader now in Colombian police custody.

On November 30, Bogota police arrested Jose Milcíades Urrego Medina, commander of the 57th Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), for aggravated homicide, extortionate kidnapping and aggravated terrorism, reported Bogota's daily newspaper El Tiempo. In 1993, FARC's 57th Front guerrillas took New Tribes Mission (NTM) missionaries David Mankins, Mark Rich, and Rick Tenenoff from their base in Panama near its border with Colombia. The men have not been seen since.

Guerrillas demanded a multi-million-dollar ransom for the missionaries' release. Talks broke off with 57th Front a year after the January 1993 kidnapping. FARC's highest leaders have said that those who kidnapped the men belonged to a renegade group not acting with FARC's blessing, and that FARC has no knowledge of what happened to them.

But it is highly possible that Urrego Medina, who was the 57th Front's second-in-command at the time of the kidnapping, can solve the case because he would know their fate, said Scott Ross, New Tribes Mission spokesman. The Associated Press reported that Colombia's National Police have strong evidence that Urrego Medina, also known as "Rigoberto," ordered the kidnapping. He is also wanted for his alleged role in trading drugs for arms in Panama.

"It's a very important break for us," Ross said about the latest development that he regards as an answered prayer. New Tribes has wanted to talk to the 44-year-old rebel leader since their men disappeared.

"(Urrego Medina) was involved from the start." Ross said. "If ...

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