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Colombia Rescues Betancourt, U.S. Hostages

Former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt is pictured in a file photo from 2001 at left, and in a photograph taken by her captors at an undisclosed location and released in November 2007.
Jack Guez
/
Getty Images/FARC
Former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt is pictured in a file photo from 2001 at left, and in a photograph taken by her captors at an undisclosed location and released in November 2007.

Three American Defense Department contractors and former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt were among 15 hostages rescued after years of captivity by leftist guerrillas, a Colombian official said Wednesday.

Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said Colombian soldiers freed the hostages in a bloodless military operation against Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrillas. Santos said the former hostages — including 11 Colombian agents and police — were in reasonably good health after their years-long ordeal in the jungle.

A number of guerrillas were arrested in the operation, Santos said.

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A statement from French President Nicolas Sarkozy's office said Betancourt is at a military base in Colombia. The Americans are being flown to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.

"This was an unprecedented operation," Santos told reporters. "It will go down in history for its audaciousness and effectiveness." He said no one was hurt in the operation.

The French government has been trying to secure Betancourt's release amid reports that she was seriously ill. Betancourt holds dual French and Colombian citizenship.

Betancourt, 46, was kidnapped in 2002 while campaigning for the presidency of Colombia. Former Betancourt aide Clara Rojas and former Colombian Congresswoman Consuelo Gonzalez were released by the FARC in January in a deal brokered by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Betancourt's adult children, who live in Paris, have tried to keep their mother's case in the public eye. Lorenzo Delloye-Betancourt, the former politician's son, was elated by reports of his mother's release. "If true, [it's] the most beautiful news of my life," he said.

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The FARC has been holding about 40 high-profile hostages in hopes of exchanging them for jailed rebels. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe had raised hopes that Betancourt and other hostages being held by FARC rebels would be released in May after the death of guerrilla leader Manuel Marulanda.

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