"It is an immense joy, an indescribable joy," said Ingrid Betancourt's son, minutes after the Franco-Colombian was freed. French president Sarkozy thanked his Colombian counterpart and called for an end to the FARC's "absurd" struggle.
World leaders were swift to welcome news of the rescue Wednesday of Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other hostages from Colombian rebels, with the most heartfelt reaction coming from her children.
"Words fail us," said Betancourt's daughter Melanie Delloye, as she stood next to French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris when he thanked his Colombian counterpart for the rescue of the French-Colombian hostage.
"All we are waiting for now is the moment when we can her give a hug," said Delloye, who was about to board a plane to Colombia to reunite her with her mother, who spent six years in captivity.
"It is an immense joy, an indescribable joy, I still cannot believe it," said Melanie's brother Lorenzo Delloye.
Sarkozy hailed the "successful military operation" that freed Betancourt, and called on the Marxist FARC rebels which had taken her captive to end their "absurd" struggle.
Celebrations broke out on the streets of Colombian cities as residents hailed the jungle rescue in a country plagued for decades by kidnappings.
Betancourt, a former Colombian presidential candidate, three US nationals and 11 other hostages were rescued from Marxist FARC rebels by a Colombian military operation after years in captivity.
US President George W. Bush congratulated Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.
"President Bush congratulated President Uribe, telling him he is a 'strong leader,'" after the military operation, said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe.
Relatives of the three US hostages -- Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell -- thanked Colombian soldiers for their rescue, their spokesman told AFP.
"The families express their gratitude to the soldiers and the Colombian intelligence forces, who risked their lives in this daring operation," said their representative Stephen Donehoo.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon "warmly welcomes the rescue" of the hostages and called on the rebels "to immediately and unconditionally release the remaining hostages," his spokeswoman said.
The Vatican termed Betancourt's rescue "a positive sign" that points towards "reconciliation for a country which has suffered so much from violence," spokesman Federico Lombardi told AFP.
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero sent a telegram to President Uribe to congratulate him and another to Betancourt's family.
The Spanish government was "hugely satisfied" by the hostage release and calls for the release of all the hostages held by the FARC, a government spokesman said.
Betancourt was the most high-profile of about 700 people believed to have been taken captive by the FARC, a four-decade-old insurgency which figures on US and European Union lists of terrorist organisations.
Switzerland also applauded Colombia's government for successfully conducting the rescue of the hostages without any loss of life.
France, Spain and Switzerland had undertaken unsuccessful missions to try to secure the release of Betancourt, who had been reported to be gravely ill, through negotiations with the Marxist rebel group.
Negotiations stalled after the killing of France's main rebel contact, Raul Reyes, in a Colombian military raid into Ecuador in March.
Betancourt, a dual national, became the international face of Colombia's tragic hostage crisis after she was seized in February 2002 during her long-shot bid for the presidency.
Her plight gained new urgency in February when a former hostage warned that she was very sick and morally spent, prompting tearful appeals for her release from her two children and her mother.
Date created : 2008-07-02