Colombian troops free Betancourt, 14 others from leftist rebels (Lead)

July 3rd, 2008 - 9:44 am ICT by IANS  

Bogota, July 3 (DPA) Former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, three US contractors and 11 other hostages held by leftist Colombian rebels were rescued Wednesday by Colombian military forces, Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos said here. Betancourt, 46, had been kidnapped by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) on Feb 23, 2002. She holds dual French-Colombian citizenship and was the most high-profile hostage held by FARC.

“Ingrid Betancourt, the three US kidnapped citizens and 11 members of our armed forces are among those released,” Santos confirmed, amid applause from reporters.

“It is an unprecedented operation that will go down in history for its audacity and effectiveness, that holds the professionalism of the Colombian Armed Forces up high,” the minister stressed.

Colombian government Spokesman Cesar Velasquez told CNN en Espa

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