Colombia's guerrillas freed French reporter Romeo Langlois on Wednesday, just over a month after he was taken hostage during a clash between rebels and Army troops in the southern province of Caquetá.
Rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) handed Mr. Langlois over to a humanitarian mission made up of representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, a former Colombian senator, and an envoy of the French government.
Television images from the village of San Isidro, where the handover took place, showed Langlois, a reporter for France 24, smiling amid a throng of villagers. The townspeople have reportedly prepared a festive lunch for Langlois, the humanitarian commission, and his former captors.
The ease with which the rebels moved among the civilian population in the village shows the FARC still maintains a certain amount of control in the area, a historic stronghold of their southern bloc.
Wearing a blue shirt and black pants, Langlois appeared in good health despite having been wounded in the arm during the firefight when he fell into FARC hands just a few miles from the village where he was released today.
"Aside from the fact that I was retained for a month when I was wounded, everything else has gone well. I can’t complain,” he told reporters, adding that he was never tied up during his captivity.
Langlois was taken by the rebels on April 28 after the military unit he was accompanying on an counternarcotics mission came under attack by the FARC’s 15th Front. Three soldiers and a police officer were killed in the attack.
The Army said Langlois shed the bullet-proof vest and helmet the Army had furnished him with and surrendered to the rebels, declaring he was a journalist. Several days later the FARC declared the reporter a “prisoner of war.”
Human rights and press freedom groups rejected the notion of Langlois being considered a POW and said the FARC’s failure to release him immediately violated a rebel announcement in February that it would cease kidnapping civilians.
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