Saturday, July 5, 2008

FARC rebel: we thought it was humanitarian mission

he Colombian military has released video footage of the operation that freed Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other hostages from FARC rebels on Wednesday. The video, released on Friday, shows the hostages being handcuffed and led to the helicopter. A few minutes later they are shown shown sobbing with relief and joy after being told they were free. The video was made by undercover Colombian commandos posing as journalists.

The army did not release any footage of the moment when the sole FARC rebel in the helicopter was overpowered. He is currently being questioned by the authorities in Bogota. His lawyer says the FARC rebels had been led to believe that the helicopter was part of a humanitarian mission. The rebel also claims that there were several foreigners on board.

The Colombian military released the video in order to counter reports that Bogotá paid the FARC in order to secure the release of the hostages. On Friday, a Swiss radio station reported that there was no rescue operation and that the United States paid 12.7 million euros for the captives. All of the hostages, including Ingrid Betancourt, have vehemently denied the report.

Ingrid Betancourt arrived in France early on Friday evening. She was warmly welcomed by President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni at Villacoublay military airport near Paris. Ms Betancourt thanked the president and the entire French nation for their support over the last six years. She also expressed her deep admiration for the liberation operation, in which no lives were endangered.

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