French journalist still hostage

Colombia army ops cease where reporter was taken

GMT 06:30 2012 Thursday ,03 May

Arab Today, arab today Colombia army ops cease where reporter was taken

Romeo Langlois
Florencua - AFP

Romeo Langlois Colombia's military on Wednesday halted operations in the southern part of the country where a French journalist was taken hostage at the weekend by leftist rebels, a general said. Romeo Langlois, a 35-year-old reporter for global television network France 24, went missing after a firefight Saturday between security forces and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in the south of the country.
General Javier Rey told reporters in Florencia -- the capital of Caqueta department, where the incident took place -- that officials had authenticated a message from FARC rebels claiming they had kidnapped Langlois.
Langlois, who had been accompanying soldiers who destroyed five cocaine production labs in the area, is believed to have suffered a bullet wound to his left arm.
"Operations (in the area) have been suspended in order to create favorable conditions for the release of Romeo," Rey said.
"Flights over the area have been called off. We made the decision once we had confirmation that the rebels were holding him," he said.
"We have lowered the pressure on the terrorist group, which now has total freedom to release the journalist."
Rey said a group calling itself the FARC's Front 15 wing, a regional unit made up of about 300 rebel fighters, had claimed responsibility for the abduction in a written message, calling Langlois a "prisoner of war."
The message, a copy of which was given to AFP, said Langlois had suffered a "minor wound to his arm and had received medical care," and was out of danger, but Rey disputed that version of events.
"In this dense humid jungle, a wound like that can get infected. He must be taken immediately to a medical facility," Rey said.
A woman claiming to represent the rebels conveyed a similar message Tuesday in calls to Colombian journalists.
Rey earlier told AFP the military was going to meet with the International Committee of the Red Cross to see how Langlois' release might be arranged. The Red Cross in the past has facilitated hostage releases.
Daniel Munoz, a local Red Cross official, said the group was "very worried about Romeo's health."
Military officials have said that after being wounded, Langlois shed his bullet-proof vest and military helmet and surrendered to the rebels, identifying himself as a civilian journalist.
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 on July 2, 2008.
President Juan Manuel Santos on Monday warned the rebels they would be "held accountable" for Langlois's safety.
"A few weeks ago, (the FARC) promised Colombians and the world that they would stop kidnappings. (...) Stay true to your word. The FARC alone will be held accountable for anything that happens to this journalist," Santos said.

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