A squadron commander of Colombia’s FARC guerrillas acknowledged the rebel group is holding a wounded French journalist and suggested his release may be in the works.
In a video posted on YouTube Sunday, a man claiming to be a squadron commander of the FARC’s 15th Front said France 24 journalist Romeo Langlois was captured during fighting that took place near Montañita, Caqueta, in southern Colombia April 28-29.
The man, who identified himself as Ancizar or “Monazo,” said Langlois was “slightly hurt in one arm” but out of danger.
Langlois was embedded with a counternarcotics force last month when the group was ambushed by the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia, or FARC. The government said Langlois was shot in the left arm during the raid and that in the heat of the battle he stripped off his military-issued helmet and flak jacket and surrendered to the guerrillas.
In the video statement, which mirrored one read to local media by the rebels last week, Ancizar said that Langlois was “uniformed like the military and captured during combat. He is in our hands and is a prisoner of war.”
But the commander said the rebels were fully aware that Langlois is a French journalist and “we hope to overcome this impasse.”
A longtime conflict reporter, Langlois, 35, was working on a documentary for French television when he was captured.
In the three-minute YouTube video posted by journalist Karl Penhaul, the squadron commander appears in camouflage and flanked by at least nine other rebels. Reading from a statement, he gave a different account of the battle that led to Langlois’ detention.
Ancizar said 19 military and police officials were killed during the seven-hour firefight with troops. The government has only acknowledged that four security officials were killed. The guerrilla also accused soldiers of taking shelter in civilian homes – a charge that the military also leveled against the FARC.
The FARC are Latin America’s largest and oldest guerrilla force and are thought to have about 9,000 in their ranks. Although they began with Marxist underpinnings almost 50 years ago, the group has increasingly turned to extortion and drug trafficking to finance its survival.
In March, the FARC announced it would no longer kidnap for ransom.