Page last updated at 04:22 GMT, Saturday, 5 July 2008 05:22 UK

Video shows daring Colombian raid


Footage of Ingrid Betancourt's rescue

The Colombian government has released video footage of the daring raid that freed 15 rebel-held hostages, including politician Ingrid Betancourt.

The video shows the captives' joyous reaction when they are told they are not being moved to another rebel camp, but have been rescued by the army.

Officials denied reports payments were made to free the hostages, but said Colombia did reward information.

The French-Colombian Ms Betancourt has received a rapturous welcome in France.

The politician grew up and was educated in France. President Nicolas Sarkozy headed a campaign to try to secure her release.

Disbelief and jubilation

Colombian soldiers posed as members of a non-governmental organisation (NGO) and filmed the operation.

Ingrid Betancourt after her release 2 July 2008
Born on 25 December 1961
Grows up in Paris
1989: Returns to Colombia
1994: Elected to lower house
1998: Becomes a senator
2002: Kidnapped by Farc rebels

The group of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) rebels holding Ms Betancourt, three American contractors and 11 Colombian police had been convinced by an infiltrator to move the captives and hand them over to the false NGO to be moved by helicopter to another Farc camp.

The hostages are seen wearing plastic handcuffs and looking dismal as they are led on to the helicopter.

With them are the local Farc commander and another rebel.

More Farc guerrillas can be seen standing in the distance.

There is a jump in the video as the soldiers working the camera stopped filming for several minutes to help capture the two Farc members on the helicopter.

Then, disbelief and jubilation are plain to see on Ms Betancourt's and the other hostages' faces as the Colombian soldiers tell them they have just been rescued.

The whole operation unfolds in just minutes.

'100% Colombian'

Colombian Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos denied reports that $20m had been paid to some Farc members to assist the operation.

He said no money had changed hands to complete the operation but that $20m would have been a bargain as $100m had been offered in the past.

Feb, 2002: Betancourt kidnapped by Farc rebels
Feb, 2003: US defence contractors Thomas Howes, Keith Stansell and Marc Gonsalves seized by after their plane goes down in southern Colombia
Jan, 2008: Betancourt aide Clara Rojas and ex-congresswoman Consuelo Gonzalez freed by Farc
March, 2008: Colombian forces raid rebel camp in Ecuador and kill Farc commander Raul Reyes
March, 2008: Farc leader Manuel Marulanda dies of reported heart attack
July, 2008: Colombian military frees Ms Betancourt, the three US contractors and 11 other hostages

He said, however, that there was an ongoing policy of paying for information regarding Farc.

"We have a very aggressive and successful policy of offering awards," he said at a news conference in Bogota to display the rescue video.

"We pay for information and we have paid millions of dollars to many people for information of all different kinds. If we had paid on this occasion we would have been the first to admit it because it is part of our politics."

He also denied reports that Israeli and US agents had been involved in the operation, saying it had been "100% Colombian".

US President George W Bush had been informed of the raid 10 days in advance and assured that the risks were minimal.

Mr Santos said the Colombian soldiers who rescued the hostages had carried no weapons.

They were trained for weeks by actors. One posed as an Italian, another as an Australian who Colombian officials said looked and acted like "Crocodile Dundee".

Mr Santos said the mission intentionally mimicked two hostage handovers brokered by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

'Tears of joy'

Since the raid, Ms Betancourt has been reunited with her family and travelled to France, where she has received a lavish welcome, including a meeting with President Sarkozy in the Elysee Palace.

"I have cried a great deal during this time from pain and indignation, today I am crying because of joy," she said.

Ingrid Betancourt was greeted by President Sarkozy

On Saturday Ms Betancourt will have a number of medical tests in Paris. Although she said she was in "great shape" she suffered a number of illnesses in captivity.

Mr Sarkozy said her release had given the world "a message of hope".

He led a campaign to try to secure her release, including sending a team of medics to Colombia in an unsuccessful attempt to get her treatment.

Ms Betancourt was campaigning for the presidency against current incumbent Alvaro Uribe when she was kidnapped by Farc guerrillas six years ago.

After her release she thanked Mr Uribe and said she still aspired "to serve Colombia as president".

Mr Uribe was first elected president in 2002. He has pursued a hardline stance against Colombia's left-wing guerrilla groups while making tentative peace overtures.

The Farc, which has been waging a guerrilla war to establish a Marxist government for the past four decades, still holds as many as 700 hostages.

They have suffered a series of blows in recent months, including the deaths of several senior leaders.

With the rescue of Ms Betancourt and 14 other high-profile hostages, they have now lost some of their key bargaining chips.

Reuters Colombia tricks rebels in bloodless hostage rescue - 7 hrs ago
Denver Post "Miracle" rescue frees Colombia hostages - 7 hrs ago Betancourt to Meet Sarkozy, Says France Kept Her Alive - 7 hrs ago
CNN Hostages freed; Uribe calls for peace - 7 hrs ago
Sky News Colombian Hostage Relives Rescue - 7 hrs ago

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