U.S. army says freed American hostages in "good condition"
SAN ANTONIO, Texas |
SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Reuters) - Three U.S. defence contractors freed after five years as rebel-held hostages in Colombia are in good health and could go home within a few days, U.S. Army doctors said Thursday.
Keith Stansell, Marc Gonsalves and Thomas Howes arrived in San Antonio late Wednesday after being rescued by Colombian armed forces.
"They are in very good physical condition, very strong," Army physician Col. Jackie Hayes told a news briefing. "The results of their tests are pending at this time, but everything looks really well," he said.
Stansell was reunited privately with family members in San Antonio Thursday, and reunions with family were planned for Gonsalves and Howes later in the day, Army officials said.
How long the men remain in Army medical care is up to them, said Maj. Gen. Keith Huber, commander of U.S. Army South, the unit handling their transition back into civilian life.
"If their physical condition is excellent, the time they spend in this hospital could range from two to four days," Huber said.
The three employees of Northrop Grumman Corp, were captured in 2003 after their plane crashed during a counternarcotics operation in the jungles of Colombia.
A fourth contractor, Tom Janis, was killed by FARC shortly after the crash, Northrop Grumman said in a statement. The company also said it was "ecstatic" about the survivors' return.
The men were among 15 hostages, including French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, whom Colombian armed forces rescued from FARC guerrillas who are fighting the government.
Hostage-taking and demands for ransom or other political advantage have been favoured tactics of FARC, the Spanish acronym for Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
Colombian officials say FARC, which the United States has declared a terrorist organization, still holds more than 700 hostages.
"The conditions that they lived under were very cruel and very spartan," Huber said. "They are very grateful to the government and the armed forces of Colombia."
(Writing by Bruce Nichols)
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