BOGOTÁ, Colombia – After spending 33 days in captivity, French journalist Roméo Langlois was released on May 30 by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in a remote jungle village to an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) team that also included French envoy Jean-Baptiste Chauvin and former Colombian Sen. Piedad Córdoba.
“Apart from the fact that I was held for a month, everything went very well. I cannot complain,” Langlois told reporters after arriving in the hamlet of San Isidro in the department of Caquetá with a group of FARC terrorists. “They treated me like a guest. They were always very respectful.”
French President François Hollande said Langlois’ release was “a moment of great joy and I join the celebration and the relief experienced by his family, his friends and the staff of France 24, I want to thank everybody who worked to reach this happy ending, especially Colombian authorities and the International Committee of the Red Cross, whose help was invaluable.”
“We are very, very happy,” Langlois’ mother Aline told French media. “We started to feel things were going in the right direction a few days ago and now we’re just happy.”
Langlois had spent the past decade in Colombia reporting on the decades-long strife between the FARC and the Colombian government for France 24, an international news TV channel.
“I remain convinced that one has to keep following the conflict,” Langlois said.
Nelson Cárdenas, secretary of the communal committee in San Isidro, said Langlois’ kidnapping had returned the FARC’s battle against the state to the global spotlight.
“The detention of the journalist was good for us,” he told news agency Agence France-Presse. “Not because he was deprived of freedom – that’s bad – but because it attracted the attention of domestic and foreign journalists.”
The FARC said on Feb. 26 it would no longer resort to kidnappings. But about two months later, on April 28, the FARC abducted Langlois during a firefight against Colombian Armed Forces in Caquetá.
The Andean nation’s largest terrorist group also has increased its attacks against security forces in remote areas of the country during the past year. Last week, the FARC killed 12 soldiers during an ambush near the Venezuelan border. The FARC also has escalated its bombings of key targets in the oil sector.
The FARC is suspected of being behind a bombing earlier this month against former Interior Minister Fernando Londoño in Bogotá that killed two people and injured 31.
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. “We celebrate the release of the French journalist, who shouldn’t have been kidnapped at all in the first place,” Santos wrote on his Twitter page.
Todd Howland, the United Nations representative in Colombia, asked the FARC to release all civilians it has abducted.
“All human beings have rights and those must be respected,” he said. “We reiterate that it’s all armed groups’ responsibility to respect human rights and to free all who are in captivity.”
Howland added the Colombian government should be proactive in the peace process with the FARC.
“We are happy for the release of Roméo Langois who is now free, healthy and safe,” he added. “We insist that the need to reach peace is an obligation. This armed conflict provokes many human rights violations.”
In the early hours of May 30, the ICRC delegation left the southern town of Florencia, the capital of Caquetá, in a convoy of three cars sporting the Red Cross symbol.
Six hours and at least 100 kilometers (62 miles) later, the team arrived at the prearranged handover spot where Langlois was released.
The Colombian Army complied with the FARC’s request to suspend all military operations in the area for 36 hours.
Langlois returned to France on May 31, according to the French Embassy in Bogotá.