* Frenchman was kidnapped while reporting with army
* Romeo Langlois appeared in good health
* French President calls release "moment of joy"
(Adds details, comments from Red Cross)
By Eduardo Garcia and Luis Jaime Acosta
BOGOTA, May 30 Colombia's FARC guerrillas freed
French reporter Romeo Langlois on Wednesday, a month after
taking him hostage in a firefight that showed the leftist group
is still a menace despite a decade of military blows.
Langlois, the rebels' highest-profile captive since
French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, was taken hostage
in the southern Caqueta region on April 28 after he was caught
in crossfire between a Colombian military unit he was embedded
with and heavily armed FARC rebels.
The 35-year-old walked with members of the Revolutionary
Armed Forces of Colombia, who were dressed in camouflage, into a
crowd of villagers, many of whom took pictures with their
"I was never tied up. They treated me rather like a guest.
They gave me good food ... they were always very respectful,"
the France 24 freelance journalist told reporters at the scene
in a hamlet deep in the jungle.
"I can't complain."
The Red Cross issued a statement saying the reporter was in
good health, despite a wound he suffered in his left arm during
the initial crossfire.
Langlois berated the rebels for holding him for 33 days and
urged the media to pay more attention to Latin America's
"There should be more journalists reporting with the
guerrillas to show their day-to-day life," he said, before
blaming poverty and underdevelopment in remote rural areas for a
civil conflict that has killed tens of thousands over the
Some of Langlois' comments were applauded by hundreds of
villagers who came out to watch his release. The FARC operate in
remote areas where lack of eduaction and opportunities fuel
support for the rebels.
The FARC has accused Colombia's government of manipulating
journalists to bend public opinion against them and had called
for a debate on freedom of information as a condition for
In France, President Francois Hollande celebrated Langlois'
release as a moment of "joy" and "relief". "My thoughts also go
out to our other compatriots that are still held and for which
the government is working to get released."
France has seven other citizens held overseas, including six
in the Sahel region of Africa and one intelligence officer in
The last French citizen seized by the FARC was Betancourt,
who was rescued by Colombian military in 2008 after six years in
The FARC started as a Marxist peasant movement in the 1960s
and later turned to kidnapping, extortion and drug smuggling to
finance their insurgency. The European Union and United States
have labeled the FARC a terrorist group.
A U.S.-funded military crackdown has weakened the rebels in
recent years, prompting signs that they may be willing to engage
in peace talks.
President Juan Manuel Santos has said he will not consider
peace talks until the group ceases all attacks against military
and civilian targets and frees all captives.
The FARC's involvement in the cocaine trade, however,
provides it with plenty of funds to stay strong in remote jungle
areas and it has stepped up attacks in recent months.
The rebels are suspected of being behind a bomb attack
earlier this month against former Interior Minister Fernando
Londono in the capital, Bogota. Londono survived the blast, but
his driver and a bodyguard were killed.
FARC guerrillas also killed 12 soldiers in an ambush on an
army unit near the Venezuelan border last week, and they have
carried out a string of bomb attacks against oil infrastructure.
Both sides are accused of rights abuses during the conflict.
Soldiers allegedly killed civilians then dressed them as rebels
to give the impression they were beating their enemies, and the
FARC has kidnapped hundreds of civilians for ransom.
(Additional reporting John Irish in Paris; Editing by Daniel
Wallis and Paul Simao)