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Page last updated at 10:57 GMT, Thursday, 3 July 2008 11:57 UK

Media marvel at hostages' release

It was a huge story and a great story, and attracted so much interest in Colombia that the websites of the some of the country's main news sites collapsed or groaned under the strain of people trying to read all about it.

Semana.com website reads "The perfect rescue"
Colombian media hail what they call the perfect rescue

After six years in captivity, Colombia's best-known hostage Ingrid Betancourt had been freed, along with 14 others - 11 Colombians and three Americans.

To add to the drama, their rescue came during a daring rescue operation, the product of months of intelligence planning.

Given all these elements, media not only in Colombia but around the world jumped on the news.

Colombian websites and newspapers carried pictures of a beaming Ingrid with her mother Yolanda Pulecio.

"The severest blow to the Farc" was how the Caracol website presented the news, with a quote from the former hostage herself: "We were freed without a shot being fired."

"Ingrid, free again" was the headline in El Espectador newspaper.

Wednesday 2 July, will be remembered by 12 Colombians as the day when the hell in which they were forced to live without having died came to an end, El Espectador said.

Their rescue has brought an immense national rejoicing. There can hardly be a Colombian who is not delighted to see the suffering of these captives brought to an end
El Tiempo
Many of the Colombian news sites highlighted what was called the "perfect" operation to free the hostages.

Semana.com reported that it was a "cinematic operation...in which a group of military intelligence operatives mounted a scheme to trick the Farc rebels holding the hostages".

For Semana, the fate of Ingrid Betancourt encapsulated what it called the "tragedy of our country".

"The image of Ingrid shows the many faces of Colombia but principally two: the struggle for dignity and the hope of civility."

El Tiempo newspaper reflected on what the rescue of Ingrid Betancourt and the other hostages meant for Colombia.

"Their rescue has brought an immense national rejoicing. There can hardly be a Colombian who is not delighted to see the suffering of these captives brought to an end," an editorial said.

It could be the most important development in years in Colombia's conflict, signalling that it is time to begin a definite peace process.

Continuing pain

According to El Tiempo, the hostages' rescue is also a boost for Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who is currently mired in a constitutional crisis over his re-election.

But for El Tiempo, as for other Colombian media, the fate of the several hundred hostages still in rebel hands must not be forgotten.

Le Figaro website
How the operation was carried out is the focus for Le Figaro
"The happiness felt by all Colombians over (Ingrid's) rescue and that of her 14 colleagues is painfully countered by the pain still suffered by the families who still have not been reunited with their loved ones," it said.

In France, the rescue of Ms Betancourt, who has joint French and Colombian citizenship, was also front page news in all the daily newspapers.

"The rescue of Ingrid Betancourt is a hard blow for the Farc," said Le Monde.

Le Figaro highlighted what it called the bluff that tricked the Farc, an operation worthy of a film: Act one - infiltration; act two - reconnaissance; act three - the bluff; act four - action and act five - deliverance.

The Bogota correspondent for Liberation wrote that whatever the circumstances and means of the operation, it was a major coup for President Alvaro Uribe, who came to office promising a hard line against the rebels.

"Today, his army has almost made Colombians forget the last bloody attempt to free hostages - in May 2004, 10 civilian and military hostages were killed during a badly prepared attack," it said.

American media also picked up news of the released hostages, who included three US citizens, highlighting what they termed the "ruse" and "cunning plan" to trick the rebels.

For the New York Times, the rescue was " a major victory in Colombia's struggle with the Farc".

The Washington Post, in a report from Medellin, also focuses on the fate of the remaining captives and the families whose relatives are among those who have disappeared during Colombia's long-running conflict.

One father tells the paper how he is does not know if his son, missing for 10 years, is alive but how he has not given up hope.

"I have more hope today with the news of the release of kidnapped people," he told The Washington Post.




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