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Colombia freed Ingrid Betancourt and three U.S. military contractors from leftist guerrillas on Wednesday after military spies tricked rebels into giving them up without a single injury, the defense minister said.
The rescue came as U.S. presidential candidate John McCain was visiting Colombia. When news of its success reached McCain on his campaign plane, he said he and two other U.S. senators traveling with him — Joe Lieberman and Lindsay Graham — had been told about it in advance by Uribe.
The helicopters took off with the hostages, Cesar and one other rebel, and those two "were neutralized" during the flight, Santos said.
The army let the rest of the rebel group, who retreated into the jungle, escape "in hopes that they will free the rest of the hostages," Santos said. The government says the FARC still holds about 700 hostages.
The Americans, who worked for a Northrup Grumman Corp. subsidiary as Pentagon contractors, were captured a year after Betancourt when their drug surveillance plane went down in rebel-held jungle. They were the longest-held American hostages in the world.