French hostages held in Niger released
30 October 2013, 08:17
Bratislava - Four French hostages who were kidnapped by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in northern Niger in 2010 have been released, French President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday in Bratislava.
"I have some good news. I just learned from Niger's president that our four hostages in the Sahel, the Arlit hostages, have been released," Hollande said on a visit to the Slovak capital.
Frenchmen Thierry Dol, Daniel Larribe, Pierre Legrand and Marc Feret were working for French nuclear giant Areva when they were kidnapped on 16 September 2010 from a uranium compound in Arlit, north-central Niger.
Hollande spoke of "three years of trials for the kidnapped men, who were held by unscrupulous captors" and of "three years of suffering for the families who lived through a nightmare and are now relieved".
"I want to express my gratitude to Niger's president, who was able to obtain the release of our countrymen."
In Paris, the French foreign ministry confirmed that Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian were in the capital Niamey to recover the hostages.
The news comes days after regional security sources in Gao reported the presence of envoys in the Sahel "to speed up negotiations towards freeing the French hostages".
France however "officially denied" sending envoys.
Three other people who were kidnapped at the time - a French woman, a Togolese and a Madagascan - were freed in February 2011.