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article image15 Hostages Held by Colombian Rebels Are Rescued

By Owen Weldon     Jul 2, 2008 in World
On Wednesday Colombia announced that it had rescued 15 captives held by the FARC rebel group. Ingrid Betancourt, a former presidential candidate, and three American military contractors were among those who were rescued.
The captives are reported to be in good health and the rescue mission marks a major victory in Colombia's struggle with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a Marxist-inspired insurgency that has been attempting to toppled the Colombian government for more than four decades.
Lorenzo Delloye, Ms. Betancourt’s son, told Agence France-Presse that the news was an indescribable joy.
Juan Manuel Santos, the defense minister, told sources that the operation was carried out Wednesday in Guaviare, a jungle region in south-central Colombia. The operation comes after the killing and capture ion recent months of several senior commanders of the FARC.
Ms. Betancourt was captured by FARC back in 2002 while she was campaigning in Colombia’s interior and the three Americans, Marc Gonsalves, Keith Stansell and Thomas Howes, were captured back in 2003 after their surveillance plane went down on an anti narcotics mission for the United States Defense Department.
Álvaro Uribe, the Colombian president, was congragulated by President Bush. Bush also called him a strong leader. Ms. Betancourt and the three Americans were among more than 40 captives used by the FARC to bargain for political concessions. Mr. Santos, the defense minister, spoke at a news conference and said that they will continue working for the liberation of the other captives because the FARC is thought to hold hundreds of other abductees in jungle camps.
In June Colombian officials annou8nced that the American contractors had been spotted by troops in the jungle a few months earlier. Officials also said that it was impossible to try a rescue mission at that time.
Back in January the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, brokered a deal and freed Clara Rojas, 44, who was captured along with Ms. Betancourt, and Consuelo González de Perdomo, 57, a former Colombian lawmaker abducted in 2001.
Rojas was bore a child during captivity and she was found to be living in foster care in Bogotá shortly before her release, and not with the guerillas, as they had indicated.
After the death of several top leaders in recent months, hopes for the hostages' freedom increased. Back in late May the legendary guerrilla Manuel Marulanda was reported to have died of natural causes.
Marulanda built a Marxist rebel army from the remnants of a rural guerrila group and to this day the FARC remains Latin America’s largest insurgency, with about 9,000 fighters, despite the death or surrender of several of its top leaders in recent months.
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