The Colombian authorities say they have rescued Ingrid Betancourt and three Americans held by rebels in Colombia. Ms Betancourt, a French-Colombian politician, has been held for more than six years by the rebel Farc group and is said to be in very poor health. She is the group's highest-profile hostage and the French government has made securing her release a priority. The Farc group has been fighting to overthrow the Colombian government for more than 40 years.
Colombian Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos said no-one had been hurt in Wednesday's operation in the southern province of Guaviare and that the hostages were in relatively good health. Ms Betancourt's son, Lorenzo Delloye-Betancourt, told reporters in Paris that her release was "the most beautiful news of my life" and that it had filled him with "an indescribable joy".
The Colombian military said some 15 hostages had been rescued in total, among them 11 members of the Colombian security forces who had been captured in various rebel attacks. The three Americans rescued were defence department contract workers captured after their light aircraft crashed in the Colombian jungle in 2003, the Colombian military said.
The BBC's Jeremy McDermott in Medellin says the successful operation by Colombian security forces is a political and military coup for the country's government. As such, it will relieve the pressure on President Alvaro Uribe to negotiate with the Farc - the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - allowing him to continue with his US-backed military offensive against the group, our correspondent says.
The Farc had hoped to exchange some 60 political hostages for hundreds of rebels held by the Colombian government, he adds, but with Ms Betancourt's rescue they have lost a powerful negotiating tool. The news is yet another blow to the once-mighty Farc, our correspondent adds, following the death of its legendary leader Manuel Marulanda in March, along with two other members of the guerrilla group's seven-man ruling body. The Farc still holds more than 40 hostages.
The news of Ms Betancourt's rescue will be welcomed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who had made securing her release a foreign policy priority. The AFP news agency reports that the French president's office has confirmed Ms Betancourt's release. The BBC's Hugh Schofield in Paris says the news has been greeted with great joy in France, where Ms Betancourt's plight has excited huge public attention and sympathy.
Video pictures released last November of her looking gaunt and frail, as well as the accounts of released hostages that she was in danger of dying, all heightened the sense of urgency surrounding her fate, our correspondent adds. Ms Betancourt has dual citizenship as the result of marriage to a French diplomat - since dissolved - which produced two children, who have worked hard to keep her captivity in the spotlight.
The Vatican and the Spanish government have also welcomed news of her rescue, AFP reports.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner travelled to Latin America earlier this year to build ties with regional leaders who have been influential in securing hostage releases from Farc in the past.
Ms Betancourt was kidnapped in 2002. She is believed to suffer from serious liver problems.