Was this the world’s great­est res­cue?

Herald Sun - Switched On - - News - ERICA THOMP­SON

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.

Sav­ing grace:

French-Colom­bian In­grid Be­tan­court.

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