In addition to Keith Stansell, Thomas Howes and Marc Gonsalves regaining their freedom after five years of captivity, former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt also made a successful escape from their FARC captors.
Dr. Taylor at Poliblog calls this ‘This is fantastic news and yet another blow to the FARC.’
BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombia’s four most famous hostages — three American defense contractors and a former presidential candidate — were rescued from the jungle after years in the hands of leftists rebels, the Colombian defense ministry announced Wednesday.
Authorities also captured a top FARC leader, “alias César,” who was in charge of the hostages, and another guerrilla.
In describing “Operation Checkmate,” Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said Colombian military intelligence managed to infiltrate the top hierarchy of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and arrange for a transfer of hostages purportedly to be handed over to Alfonso Cano, the rebel group’s maximum leader.
The government mole arranged for the hostages to be brought together from three different locations to one camp, and then taken to a helicopter the FARC believed belonged to a friendly aid group that would take the hostages to Cano.
Instead, it was a military helicopter piloted by intelligence officers, who whisked a total of 15 hostages to freedom.
Free are American defense contractors Keith Stansell, Thomas Howes and Marc Gonsalves; former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt; and 11 soldiers and police officers.
“They are free, safe and sound,” Santos said at a press conference.
Betancourt was kidnapped in 2002 on the campaign trail, instantly becoming a in both Colombia and France, where she also has citizenship. Her campaign manager was released from captivity earlier this year.
A year after Betancourt’s kidnapping, the Americans also were taken by FARC guerrillas. The Americans were working for a U.S. defense contractor corporation, Northrop Grumman, taking drug crop surveillance photos when their plane crashed into Colombia’s jungle, which at the time was overrun by leftist rebels. The three were taken captive by the FARC and held as pawns for a prisoner swap.
Betancourt has been in captivity for six and a half years; the Americans five and a half.
It is great news for the Americans and Betancourt and their families. I believe those rescued today aren’t the only hostages held by FARC at this time. Therefore for those still in captivity, life is likely to get harsher because the rebels are probably angry at the rescue and how they were tricked.