FLORENCIA (Colombia): A humanitarian delegation traveled to southern Colombia on yesterday ahead of the expected release by FARC rebels of a French journalist held in the jungle for more than a month.
France 24 reporter Romeo Langlois was captured at the end of April by Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels during an attack on a Colombian army unit he had embedded with to film a counter-drug operation.
The rebels have vowed to free Langlois on today to a delegation comprising members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), French envoy Jean-Baptiste Chauvin, and peace activist Piedad Cordoba.
“We are refining our plans, waiting for the coordinates,” Cordoba, a peace activist and former Colombian senator, told Latin American cable TV channel Telesur from the southern city of Florencia.
“We know the locality already but, for security reasons, we are not going to reveal it,” Cordoba said, adding the operation to retrieve Langlois would be conducted “by car or by boat.”
At the request of the rebels, the Colombian army has agreed to suspend all military operations in the area for 36 hours.
The rebels released a “proof of life” video of the 35-year-old reporter on Monday, showing him in a jungle setting, speaking on camera and in apparent good health.
Founded in 1964, the FARC is the oldest and largest leftist guerrilla group in the country with some 9,200 fighters.
Cordoba flew in to Florencia, the capital of Caqueta department in the southern Colombian jungle on Tuesday accompanied by Chauvin, a senior foreign ministry official for Latin America, and several ICRC representatives.
Thanks to mediation by Cordoba and the ICRC, the guerrillas have released dozens of hostages since 2008, most of them police officers or military personnel captured during clashes.
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.
The FARC renounced the practice of kidnappings for ransom in February but has stepped up attacks on Colombian security forces over the past year in remote parts of the country.
In April, 15 soldiers were killed in fighting in Caqueta, while in March 11 other soldiers were ambushed and killed in the eastern department of Arauca, which borders Venezuela.