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FARC rebels release FRANCE 24 journalist Roméo Langlois
Held by Colombia’s FARC rebels since April 28, FRANCE 24 journalist Roméo Langlois was freed Wednesday after more than a month in captivity. Despite an arm injury sustained during his capture, Langlois appears to be in good health.
More than a month after he was captured by FARC rebels in Colombia, FRANCE 24 journalist Roméo Langlois was freed in a remote central Colombian village on Wednesday and handed over to a humanitarian delegation.
Wearing a grey shirt and dark trousers, a smiling Langlois arrived in the small village of San Isidro in the Caqueta department in a car accompanied by rebels Wednesday before he was handed over to a delegation made up of members of the International Committee of the senator Piedad Cordoba and French envoy Jean-Baptiste Chauvin.
"Apart from the fact that I was held for a month, everything went very well. I cannot complain," Langlois told reporters at the scene.
Watching the live footage of his release at FRANCE 24 headquarters in Paris, the French journalist’s mother, Aline Langlois, expressed relief that the release had been successful.
“We are very, very happy,” said a visibly elated Aline. “We started to feel things were going in the right direction a few days ago and now we’re just happy. I would like to add that during all this time we were able to face the situation relatively calmly because we received enormous support, we have been very well informed and that helped us a lot to cope with the situation.”
FARC announces Langlois’ release
A seasoned reporter with extensive experience of Latin America, Langlois was embedded in a unit of Colombian troops carrying out a counter-drug operation in southern Colombia’s Caqueta region when they came under attack by heavily armed FARC guerrillas on April 28.
Wounded in the arm during the ensuing clashes, Langlois was taken captive by the rebel group, who initially declared him a “prisoner of war”.
Speaking to FRANCE 24 minutes after his release on Wednesday, Langlois’ father, Michel, said the first few days of his captivity were very difficult for the family.
“We were afraid that he’d been killed, that his wound would get worse,” explained Michel. “But we were optimistic because Roméo is a professional, he knows the FARC, he knows Colombia very well.”
Langlois’ release came just two days after video footage of the FRANCE 24 correspondent was broadcast on the Latin American cable television network Telesur.
In the video, Langlois appeared to be in good health despite a large bandage wrapped around his left arm, presumably to protect an injury sustained during his capture.
"I am a civilian, a French international journalist," the shirtless reporter said, grinning. Langlois said he understood the dangers he faced as a journalist, before adding, "But the truth is, I didn’t think it was going to get so terrible."
FARC first announced its intention to free Langlois, who also works for the French daily newspaper Le Figaro, in mid-May, before reiterating its plans in a statement issued on May 27, saying it would only do so if the Colombian army agreed to halt all operations during the reporter's release.
Meanwhile, Langlois' case had made its way into France's presidential campaign, with both the incumbent president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and his Socialist rival, François Hollande, calling for the journalist’s immediate release.
"Regarding Roméo Langlois, if we are elected, then we have to ensure his release", Hollande told FRANCE 24 and RFI in a May 4 interview.
FARC’s presence in Colombia
Founded in 1964, FARC is Latin America’s biggest and oldest guerrilla movement. The Marxist-inspired group, which is largely funded by drugs, has waged war against the Colombian government for nearly 50 years.
However, in recent months FARC rebels have made small conciliatory gestures after a US-backed Colombian offensive dealt the movement a significant blow.
Since then, FARC leaders promised to stop taking hostages for ransom in February – a lucrative practice that previously helped the group to pay for materials such as weapons and food.
One of FARC’s most high-profile hostages was French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, who was held captive for more than six years before her release in 2008.