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Betancourt 'thought of suicide'
Ex-hostage who says thoughts of children helped her survive ordeal, calls on Farc to end struggle.
Last Modified: 04 Jul 2008 03:57 GMT

Betancourt had an emotional reunion
with her two children [Reuters]

Ingrid Betancourt, the French-Colombian politician rescued after being held by Farc rebels for six years, has said she contemplated suicide during her captivity.

But Betancourt, who was freed in a bold Colombian military operation on Wednesday, said she could not face "what her children would think" if she ended her life.

Speaking at a news conference in the Colombian capital, Bogota, she also said that, if given the chance, she would have killed one of her captors to escape. 

The former hostage was among 15 captives rescued from Farc rebels following an operation in which the Colombian military tricked the rebels into handing them over.

She is flying to France where she is to meet Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, to thank him for his efforts in securing her freedom.

Al Jazeera's Nick Clark, reporting from Paris, said the city had been gripped by the fate of Betancourt and her cause was widely supported by the French people, while Betancourt has said she was probably alive thanks to France's efforts on her behalf.

Earlier on Thursday the politician had an emotional reunion with her children, sister and former husband, who had had flown to Bogota from France alongside Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister.

"Nirvana, paradise - that must be very similar to what I feel at this moment," Betancourt said at a news conference with her family after their meeting.

'A better way'

Betancourt also said on Thursday that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) was "finished" as an organisation in its decades-long struggle against the Colombian government and "had to find a different path".

"In the midst of destruction comes the opportunity to find direction and a better way," she told journalists.

"As such I hope the Farc understand this is the time to release all hostages."

The group is thought to hold about 30 foreign captives and hundreds more Colombian civilians and security forces members.

Also on Thursday, Colombian television showed images of two Farc rebels who had been captured in the rescue operation.

The two men, whom authorities said were known by their aliases "Cesar" and "Gafas", appeared nervous and one had a facial wound.

'Make room for peace'

In the first reaction from a news agency close to the Farc since the rescue, the Anncol website called "for common sense and to make room for peace".

Colombian television showed images
of two captured Farc rebels [AFP]
"Definitely the future of Colombia cannot be civil war," read the statement on the pro-rebel news site.

The Anncol statement also invited the Farc to "not waste a historic opportunity" to hold negotiations that "would lead to a political exit to this conflict ... even though the Bogota administration cannot be trusted".

It also urged the government not to gloat and to work towards a viable end to more than four decades of conflict.

"It is necessary at this moment to urge the Colombian oligarchy to not become intoxicated with its triumph ... and believe they can impose whatever they want on the Colombian people," it said.

US 'role'

Meanwhile, US military officials said on Thursday that three US defence contractors who were also freed during the operation and were flown back to a US military base in San Antonio, Texas, were in good health.

Betancourt had been held by the Farc in remote jungle territory near the city of San Jose del Guaviare.

Juan Manuel Santos, the Colombian defence minister, said the operation began when the military spies infiltrated the Farc and tricked the rebel commander holding the hostages into thinking the hostages were to be taken to Alfonso Cano, the group's top leader.

The hostages, who had been divided into three groups, were taken to a rallying point on Wednesday morning where two disguised helicopters piloted by Colombian military agents were waiting, he said.

It was not until the helicopters were airborne, Betancourt said at a news conference shortly after her release on Wednesday, that the mission's commander turned to her and said: "We are the national army, you are free." 

Al Jazeera's correspondent Mariana Sanchez in Bogota said it seemed the operation had been planned by the Colombian military for some time.

And on Thursday the White House hinted that it had known of the plans to free the hostages and may have provided intelligence.

"We'd also been working with the Colombian government ever since the hostages were taken in order to try to free them," Dana Perino, the White House spokeswoman, said.

"I think that if the Colombians want to provide more in terms of the information that was provided in terms of intelligence, or operational help, I think I'll let them decide if they want to do that."

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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