BOGOTA  - Colombian-French politician Ingrid Betancourt was tearfully reunited with her children Thursday for the first time in six years, a day after she and 14 other hostages, including three US nationals, were rescued by Colombian soldiers posing as Marxist rebels. Betancourt, a long-shot presidential candidate, and her campaign manager Clara Rojas were abducted by the FARC on February 23, 2002. Rojas was released in January. US hostages Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell, were captured in 2003 when their plane crashed during a US defence department anti-drug mission, arrived back in the United States early Thursday. The men, employees of US defence contractor Northrop Grumman, landed at a military base in San Antonio, Texas, and were taken by helicopter to a US army medical centre. Betancourt climbed the stairs to greet her family as the door to their plane opened at 8:26 am (1326 GMT). There she clasped her children, Melanie and Lorenzo Delloye, her sister Astrid and her former husband Fabrice Delloye. The group momentarily disappeared inside the plane to continue their reunion out of view of television cameras. "I think it was an orgy of kisses," she later told reporters on the tarmac, dressed in a dark pantsuit and white blouse, looking radiant but thin. "I wanted to feel them, touch them, look at them ... They are so beautiful," she said of her children, who were 16 and 13 when she was seized by Colombian rebels in February 2002. Melanie Delloye, 22, called the reunion the "strongest and most beautiful moment of our life." She urged Colombia and the international community to keep working to free all the rebel-held hostages now that her mother, the highest-profile captive, has been freed. Betancourt's relatives arrived with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner a day after the bloodless rescue by Colombian commandos who tricked rebels into putting the 15 hostages onto two helicopters, allegedly to go see the top rebel commander. The operation was a stunning triumph for Colombian President Alvaro Uribe over Latin America's largest leftist rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which has waged a bloody insurgency against the government for some 40 years.The United States knew of the operation in its planning stages, but Bogota did not need Washington's "green light" to undertake it, the White House said. France did not play a role in the rescue, and was not notified of it in advance, Sarkozy's top aide said. "We were not surprised" given that Colombian authorities had said several months ago they were trying to secure her release, said Claude Gueant. Betancourt admitted even she had been taken in by the army operation which also freed three US defence contractors and 11 Colombian soldiers. She said the hostages did not know that rebels who had come to move them to a new hideout were Colombian soldiers in disguise, noting some wore T-shirts bearing the portrait of legendary revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara. Colombian Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos said the rescue, made possible by a military agent's infiltration of the rebels, "will no doubt go down in history for its audacity."