Video: U.S. contractors held in Colombia

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updated 10/27/2006 7:24:48 PM ET 2006-10-27T23:24:48

The Colombian jungle, 2003: The final radio transmission from Americans on a U.S. military spy mission.

"... declaring mayday, we have lost engine. Doesn't look like we're going to make the airfield. We are going in ..." says the audiotape — obtained exclusively by NBC News — from the cockpit of a single-engine plane carrying four U.S. contractors and a Colombian soldier.

The plane is packed with sophisticated electronics and trying to find cocaine labs in the jungle. They radio their location above rebel territory and crash-land.

Moments later, the Colombian government intercepts a transmission from the rebels, celebrating.

The revolutionary group called FARC executed the American pilot and a Colombian and took the three other Americans hostage. Colombian journalist Jorge Botero was granted an interview in July 2003 to show they were alive.

"I want you to know that I am being strong," says Marc Gonsalves, one of the hostages on Botero's tape. "Um, I'm not being hurt or tortured." 

Three years later, these men are still being held somewhere in the Colombian jungle. And the FARC leader allegedly involved in their capture is on trial in U.S. federal court in Washington, charged with hostage-taking.

Prosecutors say Ricardo Palmero used the three Americans in a failed effort to try to get the Colombian government to release thousands of FARC prisoners.

"It's something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy," says Jo Rosano, Gonsalves' mother. "You know, it's my child, and they shouldn't be going through this. They should've been released a long, long time ago."

Retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey is a former drug czar and now an NBC News military analyst.

"It is the forgotten war," he says. "These three abducted brave Americans, contractors working for the U.S., if they had been kidnapped in Iraq, we'd be hearing about them frequently." 

Instead, these men languish in the jungle.

"To our country, we miss you and we hope we return one day. We're alive and well," says Keith Stansell, another one of the hostages on Botero's video.

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