Colombia rebels to release hostage

2012-05-28 08:43

Bogota - The leftist Colombian guerrilla group Farc has said it will free on Wednesday a French journalist taken prisoner nearly a month ago.

Romeo Langlois, a correspondent for France 24 TV, was captured by the rebels in April during an attack on a Colombian army unit that he had embedded with to film a counter-drug operation.

"The liberation of French journalist Romeo Langlois will take place next Wednesday 30 May," the Farc unit holding him said in a statement posted on an internet website.

Initially, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia guerrillas declared Langlois, 35, a "prisoner of war".

However in mid-May the Farc said it was prepared to turn him over to a delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross, a French envoy, and former Colombian senator Piedad Cordoba, who heads pro-peace NGO.

Handover protocol

"The co-ordinates of the location where Langlois will be freed will be submitted at an opportune time to the humanitarian mission composed of the ICRC, Piedad Cordoba and the French delegate," the Farc statement on Sunday said.

During previous hostage releases, security guarantees involved a suspension of Colombian military operations in the region.

The ICRC representative in Colombia, Jordi Raich, met with Colombian deputy defence minister Jorge Bedoya and French ambassador Pierre-Jean Vandoorne on Sunday to work out details of the handover protocol.

Starting 18:00 (23:00 GMT) on Tuesday, "military operations will be suspended until the 31st at 06:00 [11:00 GMT]" in the release area in southern Colombia, Raich told reporters after the meeting.

The ICRC however still needs to be informed of the "precise place and exact spot where Mr Langlois will be released" so the delegation can find him, Raich said.

ICRC officials in Bogota initially said they were optimistic Langlois would be soon released, but expectations have been tempered by frustration as weeks dragged on with little word on moves to free him.

Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande's envoy, a French foreign ministry official, was expected to arrive soon.

In an interview with Latin American channel Telesur, Cordoba "thanked the French government's action and the action of the FARC" in moving toward the journalist's release.

French Foreign Ministry spokesperson Bernard Valero, meanwhile, urged the Farc to stick to the release schedule.

The last French national held by the Farc was Ingrid Betancourt, a former Colombian senator and presidential candidate. She was abducted during her presidential campaign in February 2002, along with her assistant, Clara Rojas.

Betancourt and 14 other hostages - including three US military contractors - were freed in an operation by the Colombian military in July 2008.

Founded in 1964, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia is the oldest and largest leftist guerrilla group in the country with some 9 200 fighters. In February, it renounced the practice of kidnappings for ransom.