This press release was issued by the Ministry of Defense of Colombia on July 2, 2008.
WRITER-ID | 7 July 2008

Photo: Ambassador Brownfield (right) welcomes Keith Stansell, Mark Gonsalves, and Thomas Howes back to freedom after their rescue by Colombian military forces. (US Embassy In Colombia/Handout)

This press release was issued by the Ministry of Defense of Colombia on July 2, 2008.

July 2, 2008.- We would like to report the following news to the national and international public:

In a special intelligence operation carried out by our military intelligence, 15 of the kidnap victims in the hands of the FARC were rescued safe and sound.

Amongst the rescued kidnap victims are Ingrid Betancourt, three North American citizens, and 11 members of our Armed Forces.

They were rescued in an operation that infiltrated the first squad of the FARC, led by alias Cesar, the same squad that has held a numerous group of kidnap victims in recent years.

The Secretariat was also infiltrated using various procedures. Since the kidnap victims were divided into three groups, they managed to get them reunited at a single site to thus facilitate their transfer to the south of the country, to supposedly place them directly under the orders of Alfonso Cano.

The kidnap victims were scheduled to be picked up at a predetermined site using a fictitious organization's helicopter. It was also coordinated that alias Cesar himself and another member of his general staff travelled personally with the kidnap victims to hand them over to Alfonso Cano.

The helicopter, which really belonged to the Army and crewed by highly qualified intelligence personnel, has just now picked up the kidnap victims near the Department of Guaviare and they are flying free, safe, and sound to San José, where thay will board a plane that will take them to Tolemaida.

Alias Cesar and his other squad member were neutralized in the helicopter and will be handed over to the justice authorities to be processed for all their crimes.

It was decided not to attack the members of the squad who accompanied Cesar on the delivery operation – numbering around fifteen – and all others who were within a couple of kilometers, but to respect their lives, in hopes that the FARC, in reciprocity, will release the rest of the kidnap victims.

The operation, called JAQUE or Check, is an unprecedented operation that will go down in history for its audacity and effectiveness. It demonstrates the quality and professionalism of the Colombian Armed Forces.

Fifteen kidnap victims rescued without firing a single shot.

My most sincere congratulations to the men of our Army Intelligence, to Army Commander General Mario Montoya, and to General Freddy Padilla, who led the operation from beginning to end.

Our country, the world, and the kidnap victims' loved ones will not be able to thank these Generals and their men enough for such a rescue operation.

We will continue working night and day to attain the liberation of the rest of the kidnap victims.

Once more we call on the new FARC leaders to lay down their weapons so that their men will not be killed or sacrificed - so that they can demobilize.

The government reiterates that if the FARC would like to negotiate in all sincerity and good faith, we offer them a dignified peace.

The people who have been freed are:

Ingrid Betancourt

Keith Stansell

Thomas Howes

Marc Gonsalves

Army Lieutenant Juan Carlos Bermeo

Army Second Lieutenant Raimundo Malagón

Army Sergeant José Ricardo Marulanda

Army First Corporal William Pérez

Army Sergeant Erasmo Romero

Army First Corporal José Miguel Arteaga

Army First Corporal Armando Florez

Police First Corporal Julio Buitrago

Police Second Lieutenant Armando Castellanos

Police Lieutenant Vianey Rodríguez

Police First Corporal John Jairo Duran

Please see also: United States “Delighted” by Successful Colombian Rescue Mission

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