02 Jul 2008

Colombia Rescues 15 Hostages, Including Betancourt, From Marxist Rebels

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Rodrigo Arangua, AFP/Getty

French citizen and former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt held captive for six years by Marxist FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerillas, along with fourteen other hostages, were rescued last night by Colombian military personnel posing as aid workers.

ABC NEWS:

Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said army troops infiltrated the FARC rebels, who were holding the hostages as part of their long-running guerrilla war and terror campaign against the state.

The infiltrators convinced local FARC militants that they’d been ordered to fly the hostages to another location, Santos said. The hostages were loaded aboard a helicopter and the militants, realizing they were outwitted and surrounded, gave up without a fight.

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Guardian:

Military spies tricked the Marxist rebels into handing over their most valuable captives to disguised military helicopters without a shot being fired, said the government. Betancourt, called her rescue “absolutely impeccable” and said she and 14 other hostages had no idea they were being rescued until they were airborne. “They got us out grandly,” she told Colombian army radio. ..

(Betancourt) said the hostages who were being marched toward the helicopter thought they were part of an international hostage deal but when they saw the pilots dressed like guerrillas their hopes were dashed.

“They tied our hands and feet,” Betancourt said. “It wasn’t until the hostages were aboard the helicopter and that the pilots subdued the rebel commanders that they realised they had indeed found freedom. “We are with the army, you are free,” the pilots told the hostages, Betancourt recalled.

The elaborate sting would “go into history for its audacity and effectiveness”, said Juan Manuel Santos, the defence minister.

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Hat tip to Dominique Poirier.

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