This photo released by Colombia's National Police shows police agents escorting guerrilla commander Omaira Rojas, known as Sonia, center, before she was flown Wednesday from a maximum security jail in northern Colombia to the United States.
updated 3/9/2005 9:24:54 PM ET 2005-03-10T02:24:54

Colombia extradited to the United States on Wednesday a top member of the South American country’s main rebel group, a woman known by the nom de guerre of Sonia and accused of running the insurgents’ drug trafficking business.

There was extraordinary security around Omaira Rojas, who also was suspected of managing the finances of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. A U.S. federal judge in Washington indicted her in December 2003 on charges of drug trafficking and supporting illegal activities.

Authorities, apparently fearing she would be assassinated by her former colleagues to keep her quiet, put Rojas in a bulletproof vest and helmet as they escorted her to a helicopter for transfer from a prison in the northern town of Valledupar to the Caribbean coastal city of Barranquilla.

She was given a medical examination there and put on a plane to the United States, a spokesman for Colombia’s judicial police said.

Last month, officials uncovered an alleged FARC plot to have Rojas killed in prison to ensure she never told authorities what she knew about the rebel group’s business. But some Colombian officials expect her to talk once out of the country and in the United States.

Sonia defiant
“I believe that what she reveals will be very important. ... It will help show what the Colombian people already know: that today the FARC is a large drug cartel,” Vice President Francisco Santos told reporters.

Rojas — only the second-ever FARC commander to face trial in the United States — remained defiant.

“I have nothing to say to anybody,” she said in a brief telephone interview with RCN radio before boarding the helicopter. She denied involvement in narcotics trafficking and said she was not frightened by the prospect of serving time in a U.S. jail.

“A prison there is the same as here,” she said.

In a published interview in December, Rojas claimed that U.S. officials offered her leniency in exchange for information about three American military contractors kidnapped by the FARC two years ago. The U.S. Embassy denied the claim.

A rebel in high demand
The FARC has included Rojas on a list of imprisoned rebels they want the government to free in exchange for the release of dozens of hostages, including the three Americans, politicians, soldiers and police officers.

Rojas was captured in February 2004 during an airborne raid on a remote jungle town in which authorities also confiscated documents and a laptop computer full of information about FARC business operations.

Colombian officials suspect Rojas had helped dispatch more than 600 tons of cocaine to the United States and Europe since 1994, earning millions of dollars for the armed organization. She also has been implicated in rebel attacks on military bases, resulting in the deaths of soldiers.

The United States considers the FARC, which has been battling to topple the Colombian government for 40 years, a terrorist organization.

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