By Guillermo Barros (AFP) – May 1, 2012
BOGOTA — A woman claiming to represent leftist FARC rebels said Tuesday in calls to Colombian journalists that the group was holding French journalist Romeo Langlois as a "prisoner of war."
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.
President Juan Manuel Santos said Monday there were "very clear signs" that Langlois -- who reportedly suffered a bullet wound to his left arm -- has been kidnapped during the weekend gun battle in the jungle.
Radio Caracol said the caller -- whose claim to be a member of FARC's Front 15 wing could not be authenticated -- told reporters: "We have the French journalist under our control. We have provided him medical treatment."
Because he was accompanying Colombian troops and wearing "military garb" at the time of his capture, "we have just declared him to be a prisoner of war," the woman said, according to the radio station.
The journalists who received the phone call were on the outskirts of Union Peneya, in Caqueta department, some 600 kilometers (370 miles) from Bogota, near where Langlois went missing.
Military officials 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.
FARC rebels have yet to publish a statement confirming the journalist's kidnapping on any of the websites they usually use.
Colombia's military said Tuesday it was continuing flights over the region to try to find the missing Frenchman, but has said it has no intention of trying to rescue him.
"At this time, we still cannot say for a fact that they (FARC) are holding him. We are assuming it," General Javier Rey told Radio Caracol, refuting the woman's claim that Langlois was wearing military garb.
Four Colombian security forces were killed and eight others wounded in Saturday's battle.
Langlois had been accompanying soldiers who destroyed five cocaine production labs in the area.
Santos, speaking to reporters at the presidential palace in Bogota, said Monday there were "very clear signs that the French journalist is in FARC captivity."
"I would like to ask the FARC to liberate him as soon as possible, especially as we have learned he was injured," Santos said.
"A few weeks ago, (the FARC) promised Colombians and the world that they would stop kidnappings," he said.
"Stay true to your word. The FARC alone will be held accountable for anything that happens to this 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.
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