Firefight engages Colombian rebels and U.S. pilots

Civilian pilots employed by the US State Department shot it out with FARC guerrillas in Caqueta province Febrary 17th. The confrontation occurred during a rescue mission for crewmen of a Colombian police helicopter shot down as it supported aerial coca fumigation efforts. The US pilots flying helicopter gunships "were used to put suppressing fire down on guerrillas whilst grounded crewmen were rescued," the BBC reported on Thursday.

The incident has only strengthened the FARC's conviction that the US is intervening in Colombia's civil war. They have long argued that the US is directly involved in the conflict, citing the US spy plane crash that killed five US military personnel in 1999. The guerrillas have vowed to make the country into another Vietnam for the US and have long said all American military personnel in the country are considered targets.

Now, in the wake of the incident on Sunday, FARC sources tell the BBC that they see no difference between US service personnel and civilian US citizens working for the US government.

Some 500 US military advisors are on the ground in Colombia, but they are restricted by law to training and monitoring only and are not to engage in directly in combat. Those rules do not seem to apply to civilian subcontractors hired by the US government.

They appear to have just made themselves targets.