Tue, May 08, 2012 - Page 7 News List

Colombia’s FARC rebels claim they hold reporter


Colombia’s main rebel group said on Sunday that it was holding a French journalist missing since disappearing a week ago amid clashes.

The ruling secretariat of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), did not say if or when the insurgency plans to release Romeo Langlois.

However, it said in a communique published online that Langlois “was dressed in military clothing of the regular army” when security forces he was accompanying on a cocaine lab-destruction mission were attacked by the FARC on April 28.

Traveling along with the military on such missions serves the government’s propaganda purposes, said the statement, which was dated Thursday.

“We think the minimum that can be expected for the recuperation of [Langlois’] full mobility is the opening of a national and international debate over the freedom to inform,” it continued. “Journalists that Colombia’s armed forces take with it on military operations don’t adhere to the impartial purpose of informing about reality.”

Colombia’s defense minister has said that during the combat, Langlois removed the helmet and flak jacket that the army had provided and identified himself as a civilian.

In the statement, published by the sympathetic ANNCOL news agency, the FARC leadership warned Colombia’s military not to try to rescue Langlois, referring to previous instances when it has killed “prisoners” during perceived government rescue attempts.

Earlier on Sunday, in a video released by independent journalist Karl Penhaul, a man who identifies himself as a rebel squadron leader said Langlois was lightly wounded in an arm, but was out of danger.

The video shows armed men and women in fatigues in a jungle area. The rebel says they are from the 15th Front of FARC and that it captured Langlois during a seven-hour firefight.

He said that now the rebels know Langlois is a journalist, “we hope to quickly overcome this impasse.”

Penhaul said the video, released on YouTube, was recorded on Saturday.

Langlois, 35, was on assignment for France24 TV and has also done work for the newspaper Le Figaro. He has been working in Colombia for more than a decade.

In its statement, the FARC’s secretariat complained that its own Web site was being “attacked and permanently blocked.”

The FARC periodically changes Web addresses, whether because of cyberattacks or removals ordered by foreign governments where they are hosted.

The FARC took up arms in 1964 and is estimated to have about 8,000 fighters. In recent years, it has suffered a series of major setbacks, including the killing last year of its top commander, Alfonso Cano, and has been urging the government to enter into a peace dialogue.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said the FARC had not met his conditions for talks and that it must honor its February pledge to halt ransom kidnappings.

The rebels released last month what they said were their last “political prisoners,” 10 soldiers and police officers they had held for as long as 14 years.

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