The French engineer held hostage in Iraq has been released safe and well. There are conflicting versions of how Bernard Planche was set free. One report says his captors were transporting him to another holding place when they happened upon a US and Iraqi checkpoint. They let him go, then fled. Another version suggests a patrol found him at a farmhouse. French President Jacques Chirac telephoned Planche’s family personally this morning to relay the news. Planche’s daughter and brother made a televised appeal for his release late last year. The engineer, who worked on water projects for a small NGO, was abducted from his home in Baghdad on December 5. A previously unknown group called the Surveillance for the Sake of Iraq Brigade threatened to kill him unless France put an end to what they called its “illegitimate presence” in Iraq.