Hostages Of Leftist Rebels Rescued In Colombia Co-host Ari Shapiro reports on Wednesday's rescue operation that freed 15 hostages from a Colombian rebel group.

Hostages Of Leftist Rebels Rescued In Colombia

Hostages Of Leftist Rebels Rescued In Colombia

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Co-host Ari Shapiro reports on Wednesday's rescue operation that freed 15 hostages from a Colombian rebel group.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

ARI SHAPIRO, host:

And I'm Ari Shapiro.

A dramatic rescue in the jungles of Colombia yesterday. Colombia spies led member of the rebel FARC group to unmarked military helicopters where 15 hostages were flown to safety without a shot being fired. Three Americans were in the group, and so was Ingrid Betancourt. The FARC kidnapped her during her presidential run six years ago. Betancourt spoke with reporters through an interpreter after her rescue, and her comments were on CNN.

Ms. INGRID BETANCOURT (Former Presidential Candidate, Colombia): (Through translator) We heard the helicopters and I looked up to the sky and I thought that's so - it's so curious that can finally be excited to hear a helicopter, because for seven years every time I heard a helicopter my pulse would raise. I would be scared.

SHAPIRO: Betancourt said when she found out she'd been rescued, the helicopter almost fell from the sky because we were jumping up and down yelling, crying, hugging one another. She said she never expected to get out alive.

In the United States, George Gonsalves was mowing his lawn in Connecticut when he heard that his son Mark was finally free.

Mr. GEORGE GONSALVES: I'm excited. I'm happy. I'm happy. I can't think of a better way to celebrate the Fourth of July.

SHAPIRO: Mark Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell arrived in San Antonio arrived late last night.

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U.S. Hostages Rescued In Colombia Arrive In Texas

Colombia's ambassador to the U.S. talks about the rescue.

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Juan Forero discusses the latest blow to FARC rebels.

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Three American military contractors rescued by Colombian authorities have returned to the United States, landing in San Antonio after being held for five years by FARC rebels.

Keith Stansell, Marc Gonsalves and Thomas Howes all worked for Northrop Grumman and were captured in 2003 after their light aircraft crashed in the jungles during a counternarcotics operation.

After landing, the three boarded a helicopter and were transported to Brooke Army Medical Center, where they were undergoing evaluation and treatment before being reunited with family and loved ones.

The three, along with former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and 11 other hostages, were rescued in a daring operation that involved months of intelligence gathering and a ruse in which the guerrillas were tricked into loading their captives onto a disguised government helicopter.

Betancourt, 46, was abducted in February 2002.

A flight carrying the three Americans landed in Texas late Wednesday after being flown there directly.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, in a celebratory news conference on Wednesday flanked by the freed hostages, said he wants the rebels of FARC, or the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, to know he seeks "a path to peace, total peace."

Many Colombians believe the end is near for the FARC, whose ranks are filled with poor peasants resentful of government neglect but who are widely despised for their political kidnappings and reliance on cocaine trafficking.

FARC battlefield losses and widespread desertions have cut rebel numbers in half to about 9,000 as the United States has poured billions of dollars in military aid into Colombia in support of Uribe.