NEW: A woman claiming to belong to FARC calls local reporters and reads a statement
NEW: The rebel group admits to holding French journalist Romeo Langlois
NEW: He received medical attention for a light arm wound, it reportedly says
Kidnapping government forces and civilians has been a key strategy of FARC
Colombia’s largest rebel group reportedly claimed on Tuesday to be holding French journalist Romeo Langlois, who disappeared over the weekend, and described him as a “prisoner of war.”
A woman claiming to belong to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, also known as FARC, called a group of local journalists and read a statement she attributed to the group.
“The French journalist, dressed as a soldier and captured during battle, is in our hands and is a prisoner of war. He has a slight arm wound, for which he received medical attention, and is out of danger,” she said.
The statement was reported by various media groups in Colombia, including the El Tiempo newspaper and Caracol Radio.
Colombia’s president has demanded the release of Langlois, who was kidnapped by FARC while on a military raid of drug laboratories.
“We want to tell the FARC to release him as soon as possible,” said President Juan Manuel Santos. “Among other things, because we understand he is hurt.”
Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said on Sunday that preliminary reports indicated that Langlois was shot in his arm before he disappeared.
In April, FARC pledged to stop kidnappings civilians for money.
Langlois, who works for France 24 and is a war reporter with more than 10 years experience in the country, was reporting alongside soldiers when the rebel group attacked, the Colombia government said. A sergeant, two soldiers and a national police officer were killed, the Ministry of National Defense said; six others were injured.
The attack by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, also known as the FARC, took place in the southern Caqueta province as soldiers worked to destroy cocaine laboratories.
On Monday, the Colombian air force released a video taken in the same Caqueta region that purportedly showed rebels dressed as civilians shooting at military aircraft.
Air Force Commander Tito Saul Pinilla said Colombia will take the video to international bodies, which he didn’t specify, as evidence that FARC is in violation of the Geneva Convention.
“The video proves that again (the rebels are using) the civilian population as a shield to commit their criminal acts,” Pinilla said. “This causes great difficulty not only to our ground forces but also to our pilots who have to try to locate an enemy that is in plain clothes, white shirts and who runs and hides among the civilian population.”
France 24 reported its editors were working with authorities in both countries to gather information on the journalist.
“We know that it’s a difficult region,” said Nahida Nakad, editorial director of Audiovisuel Exterieur de la France, of which France 24 is a part, the television network reported. “Of course we are very worried, but we have every confidence in Romeo who knows the territory very well and is an experienced journalist. We hope that he is safe and sound, and we are in constant contact with his family.”
A FARC-sympathetic news agency that often publishes official statements from the group blamed the incident on the Colombian government.
His disappearance “is the responsibility of the government of Colombia for engaging in their ranks a foreign national as a correspondent of war,” said an editorial posted by the New Colombia News Agency.
The rebel group has been at war with the Colombian government since the 1960s, and uses kidnapping forces and civilians as a key strategy.
While severely weakened in recent years, it continues to carry out kidnappings and attacks on security forces.
CNN’s Marilia Brocchetto contributed to this report.