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Betancourt freed by guerrillas


Fifteen hostages, including former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three US military contractors, have been freed.

Colombia's Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos made the announcement at a news conference. He said military spies tricked rebels into giving them up without a single injury.

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

Surrounded by military commandos, the guerrillas gave up without a fight as the helicopters took the hostages to a military base in Guaviare.

Mr Santos says the other 11 hostages freed were Colombian soldiers and police. Betancourt, the Americans Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell, and the other hostages were taken to a military base.

Ms Betancourt was abducted in February 2002 as she was running for president. Because she also holds French citizenship, France's government has campaigned for her release.

The Americans were captured a year later when their drug surveillance plane went down. They worked as Pentagon contractors. They were the longest-held American hostages in the world.

In France, Lorenzo Delloye-Betancourt, the son of Colombian-French Betancourt, said her release after six years of captivity was, "if true, the most beautiful news of my life".

Mr Delloye-Betancourt told France-Info radio he was "really surprised and happy" although he was waiting for more information about the release.

The rescue is the most serious blow ever dealt to the 44-year-old Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, who considered Betancourt and the three Americans their most valuable bargaining chips.

Source - ukpress


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