A French engineer’s hostage ordeal is over – after more than a month in captivity in Iraq. Bernard Planche is safe and well after being freed in extraordinary circumstances.
Most reports suggest his kidnappers panicked at a US-Iraqi military checkpoint west of Baghdad, as they were transporting him to a new hideout. They are then said to have fled – leaving their hostage behind. The French government confirmed his liberation. The foreign minister said President Jacques Chirac informed Bernard Planche’s family in person of what he called “this happy ending.” Philippe Douste-Blazy spoke out as some media reports said the 52-year-old had been found in a farmhouse. France has no troops in Iraq but does have an embassy in Baghdad. After he was seized from his home in the capital, Bernard Planche’s kidnappers called for France put a stop to what they called its “illegitimate presence” in the country. France has issued a fresh warning to its nationals about the risks of going to Iraq. It comes the day after a female US journalist was seized in Baghdad.