Freed Americans Back Home

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — The American ambassador to Colombia says U.S. and Colombian forces cooperated closely on a daring hostage rescue mission.

Three U.S. military contractors were captured five years ago when their drug surveillance plane crashed in a rebel-held jungle. Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell were flown back to an Air Force Base in Texas late Wednesday, quickly taken away for medical checkups and reunions with their families.

A dozen other hostages were freed in a daring mission Wednesday by spies who tricked the rebel captors into putting the hostages on board what turned out to be a government helicopter.

Among the freed captives is Ingrid Betancourt, a former Colombian presidential candidate who was captured while campaigning six years ago. She says when they realized they were in a friendly helicopter, they were jumping up and down with so much joy she thought it would fall from the sky.

The children of  Betancourt are embracing their mother for the first time in six years.

Betancourt raced to the stairway as the French government plane arrived in Bogota Thursday morning, then threw her arms around her children, Lorenzo and Melanie.

The former Colombian presidental candidate says she will soon fly to France, whose people and government campaigned for her freedom. The office of French President Nicolas Sarkozy says she will arrive there on Friday.