- Title: COLOMBIA/FILE: Colombia marks one year anniversary of Operation Jaque
- Date: 3rd July 2009
- Summary: VARIOUS OF RESCUED MEN, POLICE AND ARMY MEMBERS DURING CEREMONY MILITARY LEADER DURING CEREMONY MEDIA DURING THE CEREMONY (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) COMMANDER OF THE COLOMBIAN MILITARY FORCES AND DEFENSE MINISTER IN CHARGE, FREDDY PADILLA DE LEON, SAYING: "On behalf of all the air, sea and land soldiers of the entire country, we the country's police officers solemnly commit ourselves today, July 2, to redouble national efforts and not rest until the last Colombian soldier is set free. God bless Colombia."
- Embargoed: 19th July 2009 10:17
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA5O7KJV1R6LMV8QNFMCAM7ZJ3R
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: Bogota pledges to free all remaining hostages at anniversary ceremony for celebrated 2008 hostage release operation.
Colombia organized an official ceremony in Bogota Thursday (July 02) to mark the one-year anniversary of its most celebrated hostage rescue operation and to also shine the spotlight on hostages still in captivity.
Operation Jaque was organized by Colombian Armed Forces on July 02, 2008 to free 15 hostages being held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group.
The movie-like rescue, the country's most successful in its nearly half-century long internal conflict, was carried out in the southern jungle province of Guaviare.
Soldiers posed as members of a fictitious non-government aid organization that supposedly would fly the hostages by helicopter to a camp to meet with rebel leader Alfonso Cano.
Among the freed hostages were French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, three US defense contractors and 11 other hostages held for years in jungle captivity.
U.S. and Colombian authorities say the FARC has used the multibillion-dollar Colombian cocaine trade to fund its operations and has long taken hostages for both ransoms and leveraging power.
There are still 23 policemen and soldiers held by FARC, who have expressed interest in handing them over in exchange for incarcerated rebels held by the government.
Speaking at the one-year anniversary, a Colombian military commander used the event to call attention to those still hostage.
"On behalf of all the air, sea and land soldiers of the entire country, we the country's police officers solemnly commit ourselves today, July 2, to redouble national efforts and not rest until the last Colombian soldier is set free. God bless Colombia," said General Freddy Padilla de Leon, the commander of the Colombian Military Forces.
The entire rescue operation took 22 minutes and 13 seconds.
The camouflaged Colombian soldiers made use of the Red Cross white and red for the mission's helicopter, in a move Bogota later admitted as a possible violation of the rules of war.
Falsely portraying military personnel as Red Cross members is against the Geneva Conventions as it could put humanitarian workers at risk when they are in war zones.
The rescue, however, was carried out without a shot fired, and was a huge victory for Uribe, an anti-guerrilla hard-liner who has used the U.S. aid to push the rebels onto the defensive, cut crime and spur economic growth.
The outlawed rebel army, once a 17,000-member force able to attack cities and kidnap almost at will, has been driven back into remote areas and now has about 9,000 combatants. The guerrillas have lost three major leaders this year.
Violence has eased and the economy has expanded in Colombia's central, north and northwest urban areas, but the FARC is still a potent force in the southern jungle regions where the state's presence is still weak.
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