Was this the world’s greatest rescue?
WHEN news broke in July of the dramatic rescue of 15 hostages from the Colombian jungle, journalist Daniel Eilemberg knew he had to return to his homeland to tell the story.
Not only had the Colombian army freed the FARC guerrillas’ most high-profile captives, FrenchColombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and three Americans, they’d done so without firing a shot.
‘‘It was really just a curiosity to find out how this had happened,’’ says Colombian-born Eilemberg, now based in the US, who helped produce the documentary Inside: FARC Hostage Rescue for National Geographic Channel.
‘‘We had all grown up in Colombia and we have seen a country and an army (brought) pretty much on its knees by these guerrillas and terrorist organisations, so hearing all these world leaders coming out and saying that perhaps this was the greatest military operation in history — we were very intrigued in finding out how this came about.’’
Despite intense media interest in the story — there are already several Hollywood movies in the works— Eilemberg’s team was able to secure exclusive access to the key players involved in the rescue.
The documentary features previously unseen footage of how the army infiltrated FARC communications and tricked the drug-funded group into handing over its most prized prisoners via a plan that involved a mid-air helicopter struggle to overpower two armed captors.
However, though there are encouraging signs the FARC is faltering, with a record number of desertions this year, Eilemberg remains cautious about calling this the end.
‘‘They’ve been around for so long and have been able to retool before,’’ he says. ‘‘It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen. But it could also be a historical opportunity for the government to negotiate disarmament.’’
Betancourt, captive for six years, couldn’t take part in the documentary, but there are accounts from others including police officers and a soldier held for almost 10 years.
French-Colombian Ingrid Betancourt.