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'Proof of life' of reporter held in Colombia

AFP · 29 May 2012, 07:41

Published: 29 May 2012 07:41 GMT+02:00

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Colombian rebels on Monday sent a "proof of life" video of a French journalist held captive for a month in the jungle, days before his expected release.

Video footage broadcast on the Latin American cable TV network Telesur showed France 24 reporter Romeo Langlois in good health despite a bandage on one arm from an injury apparently sustained during his capture.

"I am a civilian, a French international journalist," Langlois said, smiling as he spoke in Spanish in front of a camera in a FARC jungle camp.

"You know what you're exposed to when you undertake this kind of activity," he said, referring to his reporting mission embedded in a Colombian army unit.

"But the truth is I didn't think it was going to get so terrible."

Langlois was captured at the end of April during a clash between FARC rebels and the army unit he was filming.

The FARC have said they will free the Frenchman on Wednesday.

"The handover process is being done because first of all he is injured, in his left arm. A bullet went in around his left elbow and ... he lost some movement and is being handed over to save his life," explained a rebel known by the alias Colacho Mendoza, second in command at the FARC's 15th front.

A delegation comprising a French envoy, representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and former Colombian senator Piedad Cordoba are being dispatched to fetch 35-year-old Langlois.

"We just have to hope everything goes well on the day," French ambassador Pierre-Jean Vandoorne told radio Caracol, adding that he expected to meet the unidentified envoy later on Monday along with other members of the mission.

Initially, the FARC guerrillas declared Langlois a "prisoner of war."

At the time of his capture the reporter was wearing a Colombian army helmet and a bullet-proof vest, which he shed before surrendering to the guerrillas and declaring he was a civilian, according to the authorities.

In mid-May, the FARC relented and said it was prepared to release him as long as it was provided with the usual security guarantees such as a suspension of Colombian military operations in the region.

Military officials have agreed to suspend operations from 6pm (2300 GMT) Tuesday until Thursday at 6am (1100 GMT) in the area near the planned release in Colombia's southern jungle.

The exact location where the reporter will be freed has not been announced.

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.

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