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BOGOTA, Colombia (CNN) -- Government agents posing as rebels tricked a gang of armed desperados into handing over 15 hostages during a rendezvous deep in Colombia's unforgiving jungle.
A U.S. military special-operations unit carried out the recent rescue of three Defense Department contractors being held by the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), according to a source who has first-hand knowledge of the operation. The U.S. military contractors – Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell – had been held captive by the FARC ever since their surveillance plane was shot down in February 2003 over the Colombian jungles. Also rescued in the mission were 11 Colombian military and police officers as well as former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt – who also is a French citizen.
On Thursday, Col. William Costello, spokesman for the U.S. Southern Command, said the command made 3,600 intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance flights, followed up on 175 intelligence leads and spent $250 million trying.