FARC terrorists had been holding US defense contractors Keith Stansell, Mark Gonsalves and Thomas Howes since 2003 in the jungles of Colombia.

Gonsalves, Stansell and Howes were doing drug surveillance for the Department of Defense when they were taken hostage in February 2003. The single-engine plane carrying them and two other men crashed in a remote, mountainous region south of Colombia’s capital, Bogota. Almost four years later they are still being held by FARC… until today.

Here is video of the announcement today in Colombia (in Spanish):


The three American contractors held by FARC were rescued today in Colombia!
Reuters reported:

French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and three Americans were rescued from leftist guerrillas by Colombian troops, Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said on Wednesday.

Santos said all of the former hostages were in reasonably good health after being held for years in secret jungle camps.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, has been holding about 40 high-profile hostages it has sought to exchange for jailed rebels.

Betancourt, a former presidential candidate with dual nationality, was kidnapped by the FARC in 2002. She was last seen in a rebel video at the end of last year looking gaunt and despondent.

The Americans, three Defense Department contract workers, were captured in 2003 after their light aircraft crashed in the jungles while on a counternarcotics operation.

The Colombian military said some 15 hostages had been rescued in total, among them 11 members of the Colombian security forces- BBC.

U.S. contractor Thomas Howes(left) and U.S. contractor Keith Stansell (right) seen in a video released by the Colombian government in Bogota November 30, 2007. (Presidencia/Handout/Reuters)

Fausta has more on the rescue.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe continues to clean up on the Leftist FARC terrorists. The FARC organization has abducted 300 children since 1996. They have lost three major leaders this year. Farc still holds more than 40 hostages

Counterterrorism Blog describes the rescue as right out of a spy movie.

Related… Senator John McCain is currently visiting Colombia promoting free trade and security.
The Campaign Spot reported: “John McCain goes to the southern hemisphere, and FARC releases their hostages.”

UPDATE: The 3 Americans are back in the United States. Their plane arrived at Lackland Air Force Base shortly after midnight. They appear to be in good health.
FOX News reported on the rescue:

Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said military intelligence agents infiltrated the guerrilla ranks and led the local commander in charge of the hostages, alias Cesar, to believe they were going to take them to Alfonso Cano, the guerrillas’ supreme leader, to discuss a possible hostage swap.

The hostages, who had been divided in three groups, were taken to a rendezvous with two disguised MI-17 helicopters piloted by Colombian military agents — one on the ground, the other hovering above. The choppers were painted white, without insignias.

Betancourt said her hands and feet were bound, which she called “humiliating.”

At first she thought the pilots — a crew of four with nine “assistants” dressed in white — were from a relief organization. Then she saw their Che Guevara shirts and assumed they were rebels.

Only when they were airborne did she notice that Cesar, who had treated her so cruelly for so many years, was naked and blindfolded on the floor.

“The chief of the operation said, `We’re the national army. You’re free,”‘ she said. “The helicopter almost fell from the sky because we were jumping up and down, yelling, crying, hugging one another. We couldn’t believe it.”

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