The FARC rebel group in Colombia has claimed it is holding a French journalist who went missing over a week ago while embedded with state security forces.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) released a statement Sunday saying that journalist Romeo Langlois was captured April 28 after rebels engaged an army unit in a firefight in the jungle.
The army unit was reportedly on a mission to shut down cocaine labs in the area, which Langlois, on assignment for France 24 television, was covering.
The rebel group of Marxist guerrillas, which the Colombian and U.S. governments have deemed a terrorist organization, said Langlois, 35, was dressed in military clothing of the regular army when he was captured, the Associated Press reported. The statement added that journalists accompanying the military on such missions are providing propaganda for the Colombian government.
We think the minimum that can be expected for the recuperation of (Langlois') full mobility is the opening of a national and international debate over the freedom to inform, the FARC's statement read, AP reported. Journalists that Colombia's armed forces take with them on military operations don't adhere to the impartial purpose of informing about reality.
The FARC warned the Colombian government against any attempts to rescue Langlois, citing prisoners who were killed as a result of previous attempts.
Colombian military officials said that Langlois was injured in the firefight and is believed to have a received a minor wound to his left arm, Agence-France Press reported.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos responded Friday to the possibility of Langois' capture by the rebel group, prior to the release of the FARC's statement.
If I were the FARC, I would release him quickly, because this reporter was not a fighter in any way, Santos said, AFP reported. He cannot be considered a prisoner of war under any circumstances.
Earlier in February, the FARC released a statement saying it would release 10 members of Colombian security forces, who it said were the only remaining political prisoners it held, BBC News reported.
The FARC also said it would cease the practice of holding civilians for ransom.
Much has been said about the kidnapping of civilians for financial goals, which we, the FARC carry out to finance our struggle, the statement read, BBC reported. We're announcing that from now the practice will cease.
The FARC have been active since 1964 and, according to the Colombian government, are estimated to have 8,000 members. The FARC has claimed to have over twice that number.