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Colombia military shows video of hostage rescue

Latest update : 2008-07-05

Colombian government forces revealed a video in which angry handcuffed hostages, including Franco-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, sobbed with joy after their release, in a bid to dispel myths that Bogota paid a ransom to free them.

A video showing hostages angry and resigned at having their hands bound, and then minutes later sobbing with jubilation aboard a helicopter upon discovering they had been freed, was shown Friday for the first time by Colombia military.
   
The video of FARC rebels benignly handing over 15 long-held hostages to disguised Colombian commandos was released to counter questions about the military's dramatic and bloodless coup, Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said.
   
"This is absolutely false," Santos told reporters, when asked about reports that 20 million dollars had been paid as ransom, and that it was all arranged in advance with a rebel in charge of the hostages.
   
The 15 hostages, including French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and three American defense contractors, were rescued Wednesday after Colombian soldiers disguised as rebels arrived at a jungle hideout of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and tricked the guerrillas into handing them over, ostensibly to be transferred to another FARC site.
   
The video shows the unarmed, disguised Colombian commandos binding the hands of the hostages with plastic cuffs, as one hostage, a Colombian soldier, angrily scolds the fake guerrillas for his treatment.
   
Once aboard the disguised military helicopter, the video shows Betancourt and others reacting in surprise and breaking out in tears after the cuffs were removed and the soldiers revealed themselves.
   
Earlier Friday the Swiss radio station Radio Suisse Romande reported that the bloodless release of the captives was obtained by paying 20 million dollars to the FARC.
   
The hostages "were in reality ransomed for a high price, and the whole operation afterwards was a set-up," the radio's French-language channel said.
   
And in Colombia reports said that, far from being a ruse, the handover was prearranged with a payoff through the lover of a turncoat FARC leader.
   
Army chief General Mario Montoya denied in the press conference that any money was paid.
   
"We have not paid one single cent, much less 20 million dollars. That would have been cheap," he said, according to a CNN translation.
   
"Because we had offered 100 million dollars. If they would have just handed over the hostages, there wouldn't have been any mission."
   
Santos and Montoya said the video was taken by a Colombian soldier posing as a journalist accompanying the supposed transfer operation. They said he was there to distract FARC leaders on the ground by interviewing them.

Date created : 2008-07-05

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