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I'm talking about the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC. They are blamed for hundreds of kidnappings, including police, politicians, and U.S. civilians.
Boy – did they have one pulled over on them today.
Here's what happened. Colombia military members infiltrated the rebel group in order to plan the rescue of 15 hostages, including three American hostages held for more than five years, and Ingrid Betancourt, a Colombian presidential candidate taken hostage in 2002.
The military may have been inside the rebel group for years. They pretended to be moving the hostages to another jungle base but instead, when they got in the air in their helicopter, the military revealed who they really were. They told the hostages, we are military, you are free!
Betancourt said there was so much jumping up and down they almost brought the helicopter down. Imagine the tears and elation inside that chopper!
Last year a video was released of Betancourt showing her near death. She was so skinny and frail with a chain around her neck, she could barely hold herself up.
The FARC doesn't mess around. It was established in the 1960s as the military wing of the Colombian Communist Party. It later became involved with the cocaine trade during the 1980's for the purposes of fundraising.
Here's the backstory on the American hostages: Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes, and Keith Stansell. They were private contractors working for Northrop Grumman, working for the U.S. government. In 2003, their plane went down while they were doing surveillance on coca fields in FARC territory. The rebels use coca as a key ingredient for cocaine - and to raise millions of dollars.
I recently met with Marc Gonsalves' mother at her home in Connecticut. Through her tears she told me, "I have other evidence from God. He tells me every day in my heart that he's alive and he will be home."
I've heard that so many times from heartbroken parents over the years.. It's nice to see that feeling turn out so positively this time. Tomorrow his mom will be able to hug Gonsalves for the first time in more than 5 years.
The hostages are heading to Texas tonight to the Brooke Army Medical Center and will be reunited with family tomorrow. It gives the other 750 hostages supposedly held by the FARC hope, doesn't it?
Right now, three Americans are heading back to the U.S. after being rescued from the jungles of Colombia. It's safe to say this is a day Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell will never forget. The U.S. military contractors were held by FARC rebels for more than 5 years. Tonight, they're free men. 12 other hostages are also out of captivity, including Ingrid Betancourt. She was kidnapped while running for Colombian president more than four years ago. The military operation to rescue all of them is something you'd see in a movie. (paging James Bond 007!!) It was a bold hoax that proved to work. Tonight on 360° we'll show you how it all went down and bring you stories of survival. Imagine being held hostage for years and years, away from your family. We'd love to hear your thoughts on this incredible story.
Just a coincidence -
Editor's note: John McCain shook up his top staff today, with a senior aide saying it would stop "errors in the campaign." On AC360° Tuesday night, Ed Rollins, former manager of Mike Huckabee's campaign, said McCain has made mistakes - and suggested the Republican change course. Here's what he said:
GOP Strategist and Former Huckabee National Campaign Chairman
John McCain has to basically have empathy for ordinary people. He's going to Colombia. He's going to Mexico. He's going to talk NAFTA. How does that relate to ordinary working people here? - that you're trying to basically make sure that Colombians and Mexicans have jobs, as opposed to Americans have jobs?
The next 19 weeks, 18-and-a-half weeks, that we have left here, every single day, if I was running his campaign, I would be talking about jobs: How do you rebuild the infrastructure? What people want to know is: do you understand how much I'm hurting, and do you care, and are you going to try and make my life a priority? FULL POST
AC360° contributor and GOP Strategist
I had a chance to sit down yesterday with retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the former commander of U.S. troops in Iraq from 2003-2004. On tour to promote his new book, “Wiser in Battle: A Soldier’s Story,” Sanchez, a critic of the Bush war plan, talked with me about a number of things, including Sen. John McCain’s upcoming trip to Latin America and Sen. Barack Obama’s forthcoming visit to Iraq.
Sanchez urged the need for seriousness in the debate, especially about Iraq, while acknowledging that “political theater” exists on both sides of the discussion. “It's something we need to be very cautious of since it establishes the wrong perception, the wrong expectation and it establishes conditions we may not be able to live by."
Of Obama’s trip to Iraq, and his call for a pullout of troops in 16 months, Sanchez said: FULL POST
David M. Reisner
AC360° Digital Producer
Held hostage for more than 5 years, three Americans are now free. They were among the 15 hostages held by Colombian rebels rescued today. Former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt has also been rescued, held for almost 6 years.
Known as FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the rebel group is known to hold at least 750 hostages in the jungles of South America.
So who are the FARC? and what do they want?
Take a look at this recent piece by CNN’s Karl Penhaul (posted before the recent news of the release, and the recent death of leader Manuel Marulanda) to better understand today’s new developments:
David M. Reisner
AC360° Digital Producer
So I wanted to be the first to wish you a Happy Independence Day! So what are you going to do tonight to celebrate? Yes, that’s right… you heard me… Tonight
On July 2nd 1776 the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia. On the table, a resolution brought before the congress by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia:
Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.
That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances.
That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.
…And on that day, July 2nd 1776, they approved the Resolution Of Independence… A free nation was proclaimed and the United States of America was formed. No fireworks, no cheering crowds, just a handful of men in Philadelphia knew what had happened.
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Sir Michael Caine poses with Storm Troopers at 'The Amazing Great Children's Party' in Battersea Park on July 2, 2008 in London, England.
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It sounds like the beginning of an old joke. But if Nicholas Sheley was trying to hide from the cops, the joke was on him.
Bindy's bar in Granite City, IL, is well known here among none other than cops. Granite City police tell us that it's a known hangout for local law enforcement. Officers have gatherings, retirement parties and watch the game on television there.
So when Sheley walked in, all it took was a phone call and cops knew exactly where to go.
"He walked in and ordered a glass of water," said Bindy's bar owner, Bill Watson, who added that patrons in the bar had just finished watching local news casts where Sheley's mug shot was plastered all over the screen.
Watson said he was watching over his bar along with a bartender and 2 patrons when the man wanted for questioning in eight murders in Illinois and Missouri ordered his drink and walked into the bathroom. FULL POST