France holds Colombian FARC responsible for journalist's life

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 30, 2012 11:57 AM
France holds Colombian FARC responsible for journalist's life

PARIS (Reuters) - France said on Monday it held FARC rebels responsible for the life of a French journalist in Colombia, calling on them to release him immediately in line with a pledge the group has made to stop taking hostages for ransom.

Romeo Langlois, a freelance reporter for French news channel France 24, is believed to have been taken prisoner on Saturday by the Marxist guerrillas.

"We have indicated to the FARC that they are responsible for his life," Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told reporters on Monday.

Juppe added that the group had publicly pledged to end kidnappings and this was an opportunity for it to prove it would keep to its word. He called on them to immediately release Langlois.

The reporter went missing after being caught in a firefight between security forces and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The fight broke out as police and military personnel tried to dismantle drug laboratories in the jungles of Caqueta, southern Colombia.

Deputy Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said there had not been a claim of responsibility but Paris believed Langlois was in the FARC's hands.

The insurgent group, which has battled the government for almost 50 years, has made gestures toward peace in recent months as a U.S.-backed offensive batters its front lines, halving its fighting force and killing top commanders.

President Juan Manuel Santos has said he remains open to peace talks only if the group ceases all attacks against civilian and military targets and stops kidnapping.

The FARC has kidnapped thousands of civilians over the decades to help pay for weapons, food and uniforms and is classified as a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union.

The last French citizen held by the FARC was dual-national Ingrid Betancourt, kidnapped in 2002. Colombian soldiers rescued her in 2008.

Seven French nationals are held hostage overseas, including six in Africa's Sahel region and an intelligence officer in Somalia.

(Reporting by John Irish; editing by Andrew Roche)