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Americas

Freed FRANCE 24 journalist Langlois coming home

©

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2012-05-31

Held by FARC rebels in Colombia since April 28, FRANCE 24 journalist Roméo Langlois was freed on Wednesday after more than a month in captivity. He is due to fly back to France to be reunited with his family by Friday.

 
Roméo Langlois, the French journalist who was held by leftist rebels in Colombia for more than a month, told reporters on Thursday that he did not blame the army for what happened, calling it “an accident on the job”.
 
“I totally support the Colombian Army. It is in no way responsible for what happened to me,” a relaxed-looking Langlois said at a news conference at the French Embassy in the Colombian capital of Bogota, the day after Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels released him in a jungle village.
             
“Sometimes the public looks for guilty parties, but this was just a fact of war,” he continued. “The rebels were on their own turf.”
 
'We are very, very happy.'
The 35-year-old Langlois was captured in late April by FARC guerillas during an attack on Colombian troops he was embedded with in order to film a counter-drug operation in the Caqueta region.
 
On Wednesday, the rebels handed Langlois over to a team from the International Committee of the Red Cross. He was also greeted by a FRANCE 24 team, before being transferred overnight to the capital Bogota, where a group of friends waited for him at the French ambassador’s residence. Langlois is expected to return to France later on Thursday.
 
'Surgery with a Swiss Army knife'
 
Wounded in the arm during the clashes that preceded his captivity, Langlois was initially declared a “prisoner of war” by FARC rebels.

In a televised interview with FRANCE 24 following his release, Langlois described the treatment he received for his arm injury.

"I am doing very well. The only thing I need is an X-Ray, because I was hit by a bullet in the elbow. Apparently the bone wasn't touched, everything has healed perfectly. At times, it was a bit like surgery with a Swiss Army knife, with whatever means they had at hand. But they are used to treating bullet wounds", he said.

'Media circus'

Although Langlois was careful to specify that he had not been mistreated, he did criticise FARC for creating a "media circus" around his capture and accused them of engaging in a "political game".

Founded in 1964, FARC is Latin America's largest 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.

"FARC has suffered a number of setbacks in recent years, and they realised that they could do something with a French journalist in their hands. The liberation of Ingrid Betancourt was a huge blow to their pride," Langlois said, referring to one of FARC's most high-profile hostages, French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, who was held captive for more than six years before her release in 2008. "My captivity was like an advertisement showing that they're still there."

'We are very, very happy'

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, which helped us a lot to cope with the situation."

In a statement released on Wednesday evening, French President François Hollande described Langlois' release as a "moment of great joy".

"I too feel the happiness and relief that his family, friends and colleagues at FRANCE 24 feel", Hollande said.

FARC first announced its intention to free Langlois, who also works for the French daily newspaper Le Figaro, in mid-May. It reiterated the plan 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.

 

Date created : 2012-05-31

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