Farc rebels urged to free French reporter

2012-05-07 11:00

Bogota - Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Sunday urged leftist guerrillas to release a French journalist "as soon as possible", hours after the rebels confirmed in an online video that they were holding him.

"I am very happy to learn that [reporter Romeo Langlois] is in good condition," Santos said in a statement from Singapore, where he is currently travelling.

"The Farc [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] has recognised that they are holding him and I call on them to release him as soon as possible."

Langlois, aged 35, went missing after a firefight on 28 April between security forces and Farc guerrillas in the south of the country.

A reporter for global television network France 24 who had been accompanying soldiers who destroyed five cocaine production labs in the area, Langlois is believed to have suffered a bullet wound to his left arm.

The Colombian government is prepared to help "so this liberation can take place as soon as possible", Santos said.

Prisoner of war

But if Farc rebels really want to improve their image around the world, they should "release him now and simply tell us where he is and we'll go get him", Santos said.

The statement followed a video posted on YouTube on Sunday in which a self-described Farc commander said they held Langlois, acknowledged that he was a French reporter, and said he hoped to "soon overcome this impasse".

A group calling itself the Farc's Front 15 wing, a regional unit made up of about 300 rebel fighters, earlier claimed responsibility for the abduction in a written message, calling Langlois a "prisoner of war" because he was captured with soldiers and had been wearing a military helmet and flak jacket.

Langlois took off the protective gear and identified himself as a civilian reporter when he surrendered to the guerrillas.

"Journalists," said Santos, "are not, cannot be, and never have been prisoners of war, and because of that I hope they release him very soon."

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 a daring Colombian military operation on 2 July 2008.