Image: Rebel commander
William Fernando Martinez  /  AP
Gerardo Aguilar, alias Cesar, was the local commander of the rebel group in charge of guarding the hostages. He was arrested by army officers during the rescue of Ingrid Betancourt, three U.S. military contractors and 11 other hostages.
updated 7/4/2008 5:56:43 PM ET 2008-07-04T21:56:43

Video recorded during the Colombian rescue of 15 hostages shows them filing grim-faced toward the helicopter that would fly them to safety. Then, hugs and tears of joy follow after they realized they are free.

In the videotape aired Friday at Colombia's military headquarters, the hostages' hands are bound with plastic for what they believe is a flight to another rebel camp. Among those filmed is Ingrid Betancourt.

The camera zooms in on American Keith Stansell, one of the three U.S. citizens freed in the mission.

"I love my family," Stansell tells the cameraman in a big clearing. "Pray a lot."

The local commander, alias Cesar, is put on camera but refuses an interview. A Colombian hostage talks to the camera.

Colombian soldiers posing as a media crew shot the video during Wednesday's operation, which tricked rebels into giving up the hostages.

The final images in the three-minute video shows the hostages as they realize the real reason behind the mission — that after years in jungle prisons, they are finally free.

Not captured is the moment in which Cesar and the other rebel who accompanied the hostages are overpowered. But the hostages' elation at being freed was recorded.

Extreme joy
Betancourt, the former presidential candidate kidnapped in 2002, is seen beaming with joy.

Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos denied reports in international media that Israel was involved in the operation, assuring that it was "100 percent Colombian."

"Not a single foreigner participated," he said.

He said U.S. authorities were informed 10 days before the operation as part of an agreement President Alvaro Uribe had with U.S. President George W. Bush.

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Video: New video recounts Colombian rescue


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