French journalist, Romeo Langlois, has disappeared, along with five security force members, during a clash with the leftist Colombian guerrilla group.
Langlois, 35, a correspondent for news channel France 24 and French daily Le Figaro were reported missing on Saturday.
The journalist was accompanying troops on an anti-drug operation in the southern region of Caquetá when they were allegedly attacked by members of the Farc. The anti-drug trafficking mission has been responsible for destroying five cocaine-producing laboratories and seizing 440 kilos of coca paste.
When the operation moved to another clandestine centre, they were met with a volley of bullets from a guerrilla group who were guarding the laboratory. Three soldiers, a policeman and at least one rebel have been killed, and six security force members injured in the clash, according to the army.
Due to bad weather conditions, the military unit who was with the journalist was unable to send reinforcements immediately.
“Although there have been no formal claims of his abduction, we believe, in accord with the Colombian authorities, that our compatriot is most probably in the hands of the Farc,” stated a spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry to the newspaper The Spectator.
Initially, it was assumed that Langlois had been captured by insurgents. The spokesman has demanded the “immediate release” of the journalist, after stressing that the guerrilla group “have committed publicly to renounce kidnappings.”
“As a war correspondent for whom it may be necessary to work in conflict zones, we demand that the Farc, if they have him, respect his life and must be responsible for whatever situation arises,” stated the French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppé.
The Colombian Defence Minister, Juan Carlos Pinzón, has been more cautious and has not apportioned the blame to the Farc for the kidnapping of the French citizen.
Langlois has been a foreign correspondent in Colombia for 12 years. A fellow reporter of French 24, Simone Bruno, who was also covering the operation, confirmed that so far “it is unknown what could have happened” to his companion. Bruno added that Langlois was one of the best known foreign journalists covering the armed conflict; and that he had always previously remained in contact with the news agencies.
The Farc announced in February that they had would end their former strategy of kidnappings they had held for decades as a method of soliciting funds and applying political pressure.
The last incident involving foreigner journalists held hostage in Colombia was in January 2003. Photographer Scott Dalton and journalist Ruth Morris, both American, were detained for 12 days for by the National Liberation Army (ELN), the second resurgent force in the country.