Latin America & Caribbean

Farc rebels 'holding Romeo Langlois as prisoner of war'

TV grab of Romeo Langlois appearing on France 24 in 2010
Image caption Romeo Langlois has been reporting on Colombia for more than a decade

Colombia's largest rebel group, the Farc, is holding a French journalist who had been missing since Saturday, an alleged rebel says.

In a telephone call to journalists, a woman claiming to be a Farc member said the rebels were holding Romeo Langlois as a prisoner of war.

Her statement appears to contradict a Farc announcement in February saying it was ending its policy of kidnappings.

Mr Langlois disappeared while filming troops destroying cocaine laboratories.

Prisoner of war

A group of journalists covering the disappearance of Mr Langlois said they received a telephone call from a woman who said she belonged to the 15th division of the Farc.

The woman read out a statement she said had been issued by the group's commanders:

"The 15th division informs the public that the French journalist, who was dressed in military clothes and captured in battle, is in our hands as a prisoner of war," the statement said.

Soldiers who had been with Mr Langlois during the raid said he had been wearing a bullet-proof vest and a helmet issued by the military.

The soldiers said Mr Langlois took the helmet and the vest off after the shooting started and walked towards the rebels.

A police officer and three soldiers were killed in the weekend raid aimed at destroying cocaine laboratories in southern Colombia.

Military clothes

The circumstances surrounding his disappearance have generated debate in Colombia.

"We civilians, including politicians and reporters, should not be wearing military clothing," said Vice-President Angelino Garzon.

He said that both the media and the armed forces should reflect on when a journalist should be present on military operations.

But the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) said the work of journalists was vital to understanding the conflict in Colombia.

"Romeo Langlois' situation shows the difficult conditions and danger in covering topics about the armed conflict," the foundation said.

On Monday, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos had said there were "clear indications" that the Farc were holding Mr Langlois.

Mr Santos did not elaborate but urged the rebels to free the journalist.

He called on them to "keep their word" that they had ended their practice of kidnapping.

"We want to tell the Farc that they should free this journalist as soon as possible, among other reasons because we understand that he is wounded," said Mr Santos.

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