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Colombia gears up for Frenchman's release

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A humanitarian delegation has travelled to southern Colombia in advance of the expected release by FARC rebels of a French journalist held in the jungle for more than a month.

Romeo Langlois, 35, a reporter for France 24, was captured at the end of April by Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels during an attack on a Colombian army unit he had embedded with to film a counterdrug operation.

The rebels have vowed to free Langlois on Wednesday to a delegation comprising members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); Jean-Baptiste Chauvin, a French diplomat; and a peace activist, Piedad Cordoba.

"We are refining our plans, waiting for the co-ordinates," Cordoba, who is a former Colombian senator, told Latin American cable TV channel Telesur from the southern city of Florencia.

"We know the locality already but, for security reasons, we are not going to reveal it," Cordoba said, adding the operation to retrieve Langlois would be conducted "by car or by boat".

At the request of the rebels, the Colombian army has agreed to suspend all military operations in the area for 36 hours.

Proof of life

The rebels released a "proof of life" video of Langlois on Monday, showing him in a jungle setting, speaking on camera and in apparent good health.

Founded in 1964, the FARC is the oldest and largest leftist guerrilla group in the country with some 9,200 fighters.

Cordoba flew into Florencia, the capital of Caqueta department in the southern Colombian jungle on Tuesday accompanied by Chauvin, a senior French foreign ministry official for Latin America, and several ICRC representatives.

Thanks to mediation by Cordoba and the ICRC, the guerrillas have released dozens of hostages since 2008, most of them police officers or military personnel captured during clashes.

The last French national held by the FARC was Ingrid Betancourt, a former Colombian senator and presidential candidate. She was abducted during her presidential campaign in February 2002, along with her assistant, Clara Rojas.

Betancourt and 14 other hostages - including three US military contractors - were freed in an operation by the Colombian military in July 2008.

The FARC renounced the practice of kidnappings for ransom in February but has stepped up attacks on Colombian security forces over the past year in remote parts of the country.

In April, 15 soldiers were killed in fighting in Caqueta, while in March 11 other soldiers were ambushed and killed in the eastern department of Arauca, which borders Venezuela.


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