US hostages freed from FARC in good health

July 6th, 2008 - 7:35 am ICT by IANS  

Bogota/Washington, July 6 (DPA) The three Americans freed with Ingrid Bentacourt after the daring rescue from leftist rebels in Colombia were in good health Saturday after more than five years captivity. They were among 15 hostages rescued Wednesday when the Colombian military using a team masquerading as rebels escorting aid workers and journalists eased their way into a Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) camp.

A member of the rescue team acting as a journalist gathered video footage of the mock exchange of the hostages.

The three freed Americans are being treated at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. Bentacourt was being cared for in Paris, France.

“Words alone can never possibly express the thrill and excitement we feel to be back home in the United States of America with our families at our side,” a statement released on behalf of Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell said.

The FARC had held the three US government contractors since their plane crashed in a remote part of Colombia in February 2003.

Colombia showed the footage Friday for the first time of Wednesday’s rescue of the American contractors and Bentacourt, the rebel’s highest-profile hostage, a French-Colombian and one-time Colombian presidential candidate.

As military personnel performed roles to trick and overpower leftist rebels the hostages were first handcuffed. The footage shows the dramatic details that ensued during the 22-minute rescue mission Wednesday.

The images showed an angry and sullen Betancourt as she pauses before boarding a helicopter she feared was taking her to yet another uncertain prison in her six and a half years in captivity.

They showed a defiant Colombian security officer holding up his handcuffed hands to the camera and insisting over and over to be interviewed by the fake reporter-and-cameraman team before he boards the aircraft.

The film also shows the looks of incredulity, tears and then laughter onboard the aircraft among the prisoners as the helicopter lifts off and they learned the truth of the mission.

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