The Americans, who worked for a Northrup Grumman Corp. subsidiary as Pentagon contractors, were captured in 2003 when their drug surveillance plane went down in rebel-held jungle. They were the longest-held American hostages in the world.”We are extremely pleased to confirm the long awaited news that all three of our employees, Thomas Howes, Marc Gonzalves and Keith Stansel have been safely freed after more that five years as captives of the FARC,” said Randy Belote, a spokesman Northrup Grumman told FOX News Radio.“We’re really looking forward to having all three men reunited with their families back here in the United States. We’re also grateful for the outstanding efforts of the Colombian and U.S. governments that resulted in the freedom of our co-workers and other Colombian citizens,” he added.U.S. President George W. Bush called to congratulate his ally Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and told him “he is a strong leader,” according to White House national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe. He said Uribe in turn thanked Bush for his support, which has included billions of dollars in military aid.U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi said the rescue was “the answer to the hopes and prayers of so many. That the rescue operation succeeded without loss of life is an additional reason to give thanks. Americans share in the gratitude that the families and loved ones of the freed hostages feel today as they will be able to celebrate their freedom this Independence Day weekend.”
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