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U.S. Hostages Rescued In Colombia Arrive In Texas

Juan Forero discusses the latest blow to FARC rebels.

Three American military contractors rescued by Colombian authorities have returned to the United States, landing in San Antonio after being held for five years by FARC rebels.

Keith Stansell, Marc Gonsalves and Thomas Howes all worked for Northrop Grumman and were captured in 2003 after their light aircraft crashed in the jungles during a counternarcotics operation.

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After landing, the three boarded a helicopter and were transported to Brooke Army Medical Center, where they were undergoing evaluation and treatment before being reunited with family and loved ones.

The three, along with former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and 11 other hostages, were rescued in a daring operation that involved months of intelligence gathering and a ruse in which the guerrillas were tricked into loading their captives onto a disguised government helicopter.

Betancourt, 46, was abducted in February 2002.

A flight carrying the three Americans landed in Texas late Wednesday after being flown there directly.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, in a celebratory news conference on Wednesday flanked by the freed hostages, said he wants the rebels of FARC, or the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, to know he seeks "a path to peace, total peace."

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Many Colombians believe the end is near for the FARC, whose ranks are filled with poor peasants resentful of government neglect but who are widely despised for their political kidnappings and reliance on cocaine trafficking.

FARC battlefield losses and widespread desertions have cut rebel numbers in half to about 9,000 as the United States has poured billions of dollars in military aid into Colombia in support of Uribe.

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