Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Colombia: 3 American Hostages held for over 5 years free!

Update: a total of 15 hostages are now free and Counterterrorism Blog has more: Details of Columbia Hostage Operation like something out of a spy thriller. FYI - President Bush and President - oops - make that, Senator McCain were both briefed prior to the operation. Obama was making a speech in Colorado Springs making like Fitty and sampling George Bush's Compassionate Conservative gig.

Senator McCain and Obama's statements can be found here. (I don't know, O dude's statement made it sound like he was just phoning it in. And he still had no answer for why his name was found on those FARC computers captured in a raid last March.)

Here's Ingrid Betancourt's recounting of events. Unbelievable. "They were dressed like clowns in Che guevara shirts."

Santos said military intelligence agents infiltrated the guerrilla ranks and led the local commander in charge of the hostages, alias Cesar, to believe they were going to take them to Alfonso Cano, the guerrillas' supreme leader.

The hostages, who had been divided in three groups, were taken to a rendezvous where two disguised helicopters piloted by Colombian military agents were waiting. Betancourt said her hands and feet were bound, which she called "humiliating."

The pilots, she said, were posing as members of a relief organization, but "they were dressed like clowns," wearing Che Guevara shirts, so she assumed they were rebels.

But when they were airborne, she looked behind her and saw Cesar, who had treated her so cruelly for so many years, lying on the floor blindfolded.

"The chief of the operation said, `We're the national army. You're free,'" she said. "The helicopter almost fell from the sky because we were jumping up and down, yelling, crying, hugging one another. We couldn't believe it."

The operation, Santos said, "will go into history for its audacity and effectiveness."
"We wanted to have it happen as it did today," added armed forces chief Gen. Freddy Padilla. "Without a single shot. Without anyone wounded. Absolutely safe and sound, without a scratch."

1:22PM: Ingrid Betancourt, too.

Colombia says its military has rescued former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, three U.S. military contractors and 11 other hostages from leftist rebels.

Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos says no one was hurt in Wednesday's operation in eastern Colombia.

He said army commandos captured rebels manning a security ring around the hostages and got them to persuade their comrades to turn over the captives, without any loss of life.
Santos says the other 11 hostages freed were Colombian soldiers and police.