Íngrid Betancourt - Rescue

Rescue

On 2 July 2008, Minister of Defense Juan Manuel Santos called a press conference to announce the rescue of Betancourt and 14 other captives. The operation that won their release, codenamed "Jaque" (Spanish for "check" as in checkmate), included members of the Colombian military intelligence who infiltrated local FARC squads and the secretariat of FARC, according to Santos. The FARC members in charge of the hostages were persuaded to accept a request from headquarters to gather the hostages together, supposedly to be flown to FARC chief Alfonso Cano. Instead, they were flown by government personnel dressed as FARC members to San José del Guaviare. No one was harmed during the rescue. Three American Northrop Grumman contractors, Marc Gonsalves, Keith Stansell, and Thomas Howes, were among those released.

Colombian military agents spent months planting themselves within FARC, gaining the members' trust, and joining the leadership council. Other agents were assigned to guard the hostages. Using their authority in the group, the agents ordered the hostages moved from three different locations to a central area. From this point, the hostages, agents, and about 60 real FARC members made a 90-mile march through the jungle to a spot where, agents told the FARC members, an "international mission" was coming to check on the hostages. On schedule, an unmarked white helicopter set down and Colombian security forces posing as FARC members jumped out. They told the FARC members that they would take the hostages to the meeting with the "international mission." All of the captives were handcuffed and placed aboard the helicopter, along with two of their FARC guards, who were quickly disarmed and subdued after the helicopter lifted off. According to Betancourt, a crew member then turned and told the 15 hostages, "We are the national military. You are free." Tracking technology was used by the rescuers to zero in on their target.

On 16 July 2008 it became public that one of the Colombian officials was misusing a Red Cross emblem during the rescue operation.

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