Ingrid Betancourt Rescued by Colombia Army

Íngrid 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.

AP Photo/Fernando Vergara[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.

Amazingly good news. Steven Taylor, who studies Colombian politics for a living, has roundups here and here.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Michael says:

    [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.

    That was an f-ing brilliant operation.

  2. yetanotherjohn says:

    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.

    oops. Looks like torture might be involved here. At a minimum, this is an Abu Gahrib offense. They are going to have to give the hostages back. If you can’t ply by the rules, then why are you even bothering to fight the terrorists?

  3. Michael says:

    oops. Looks like torture might be involved here. At a minimum, this is an Abu Gahrib offense.

    Stripping a prisoner isn’t torture, and presumable they didn’t stack him into a naked human pyramid either. Probably they just wanted use of his official FARC uniform for an hour or so, while they pulled a little prank on some rebels.

  4. yetanotherjohn says:

    So Michael, you are saying the problem with Abu Gahrib was the naked human pyramid. If they had not done that, everything would have been peachy keen?

  5. Michael says:

    So Michael, you are saying the problem with Abu Gahrib was the naked human pyramid. If they had not done that, everything would have been peachy keen?

    I’m saying that stripping a prisoner naked isn’t itself humiliating, nor torture. Making homophobic men climb naked on top of each other for your own amusement, however, clearly is.

  6. davod says:

    Michael, don’t be silly. Humilliation is in mind of the person getting the act, not he person doing the act. Or so the relevent international torture statutes. Trickery is also a no-no.

  7. yetanotherjohn says:

    So Michael, the problem with Abu Gahrib wasn’t the naked human pyramid per se, it was only in making non-gay men make the pyramid. If they were gay, then it would have been all right by you?

  8. Michael says:

    Humilliation is in mind of the person getting the act, not he person doing the act.

    So is the extreme pain. It’s cruelty when humiliation and pain is the goal, not merely the result. If the goal was merely to possess the other person’s clothing, then it wasn’t necessarily cruel.

    If they were gay, then it would have been all right by you?

    No, it would only be alright by me if it’s purpose was not to cause distress. I only mentioned homophobia to point out that the intent was to cause extreme distress, not merely to form a naked human pyramid.

  9. yetanotherjohn says:

    Gee, Michael, don’t you think that stripping the guy on the helicopter was pretty distressful for him. I think we are back to where we started that they have to give the hostages back because the Columbian government wasn’t playing by the liberal’s rules.

  10. Michael says:

    Gee, Michael, don’t you think that stripping the guy on the helicopter was pretty distressful for him.

    Again, it doesn’t matter if that wasn’t the intent. Shooting him would have caused distress too, but shooting him on the combat field, and shooting him in a prison cell, you must admit, are morally different.