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Freed French hostages leave Niger after three years in captivity

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Freed French hostages leave Niger after three years in captivity


Four Frenchmen have returned home after being kidnapped by al-Qaeda linked gunmen in northern Niger three years ago.

The men, who were seized while working for the French nuclear group Areva and a subsidiary of construction group Vinci, were freed on Tuesday after secret talks.

It is unclear whether a ransom was paid but it is perhaps a welcome boost for François Hollande a day after a poll showed he has become the most unpopular French president on record.

Hollande, however, did not take any credit for the quartet’s release: “I want to express France’s gratitude to the president of Niger and his team which took all the necessary steps to obtain the freedom of our hostages.”

There was a slight embarrassing and uncomfortable moment when none of the men accepted Hollande’s invitation to talk to the press.

Given what is known of their difficult ordeal in the Sahara it was hardly surprising they chose to remain silent.

Pressure will now surely increase on the French government to do more to secure the freedom of two French nationals still being held by armed groups in Mali. Another five French nationals are held captive overseas – one in Nigeria and four in Syria.

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