Ingrid Betancourt Rescued by Colombia Army
Ãngrid Betancourt Pulecio was freed yesterday in a daring rescue by the Colombian National Army after more than five years of captivity by FARC narco-terrorists.
[S]he and 14 other hostages — including three U.S. military contractors held since 2003 — were airlifted to freedom in an audaciously “perfect” operation involving military spies who tricked the rebels into handing over their prize hostages without firing a shot.
The stunning caper involved months of intelligence gathering, dozens of helicopters on standby and a strong dose of deceit: The rebels shoved the captives, their hands bound, onto a white unmarked MI-17 helicopter, believing they were being transferred to another guerrilla camp.
Looking at helicopter’s crew, some wearing Che Guevara shirts, Betancourt reasoned they weren’t aid workers, as she’d expected — but rebels. This was just another indignity — the helicopter “had no flag, no insignia.” Angry and upset, she refused a coat they offered as they told her she was going to a colder climate. But not long after the group was airborne, Betancourt turned around and saw the local commander, alias Cesar, a man who had tormented her for four years, blindfolded and stripped naked on the floor.
Then came the unbelievable words. “We’re the national army,” said one of the crewman. “You’re free.”
The helicopter crew were soldiers in disguise. Cesar and the other guerrilla aboard had been persuaded to hand over their pistols, then overpowered. Not a single shot was fired in Wednesday’s rescue mission, which snatched from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, the four foreigners who were its greatest bargaining chips.
“The helicopter almost fell from the sky because we were jumping up and down, yelling, crying, hugging one another,” Betancourt later said.
The operation, which also freed 11 Colombian soldiers and police, “will go into history for its audacity and effectiveness,” Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said. It was the most serious blow ever dealt to the 44-year-old FARC, which is already reeling from the recent deaths of key commanders and thousands of defections after withering pressure from Colombia’s U.S.-trained and advised armed forces.
Military intelligence agents had infiltrated the FARC’s top ranks — not one but many — in an operation that began last year and developed slowly and with meticulous care, Colombia’s top generals said.