Freed Betancourt to Visit FranceBy VOA News
04 July 2008

French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt is set to visit France Friday, following her dramatic rescue from Colombian leftist rebels who held her captive for six years.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy will greet Betancourt and her children when they arrive.

Freed Colombia hostage Ingrid Betancourt (c) reunites with her children Melanie (l) and Lorenzo Delloye, at the airport in Bogota, 03 Jul 2008Betancourt reunited with her son and daughter Thursday in Bogota. The emotional reunion came less than one day after the Colombian military rescued her and 14 others, including three American defense contractors, from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The freed Americans (Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell) are currently at a military medical facility in the U.S. state of Texas, undergoing medical evaluations and reuniting with family members.

U.S. military officials say the men are in good physical condition and have described them as very resilient.

Authorities say Colombian intelligence officials tricked rebels into handing over their most prominent hostages for transport by helicopter to another location. The hostages boarded what turned out to be a government helicopter that flew them to safety.

U.S. officials say the United States played a role in the military operation, but that the rescue mission itself was planned and executed by Colombian personnel.

U.S. President George Bush said he congratulated Colombian President Alvaro Uribe in a telephone call Wednesday.

Mr. Uribe praised the work of the armed forces for securing the release of the hostages. He says his government hopes all captives will be freed soon from rebel hands.

The operation is widely described as an embarrassing setback for the FARC, which has lost some of its senior commanders in recent months in combat or other circumstances. Desertions have also trimmed its ranks.

Betancourt was seized in 2002 while campaigning for the Colombian presidency. She has called for new efforts to win the release of other hostages. The American contractors were kidnapped the following year when their small plane crashed in the Colombian jungle during a counter-drug operation.

The United States, Colombia and European Union have designated the FARC a terrorist organization. The group is believed to be holding more than 700 hostages in jungle locations.

voa news