The last French hostage to be held by militants has begun his long journey home after having been freed by his captors.
I'm fine - I've lost about 20 kilos but I'm OK.
Serge Lazarevic who has French and Serbian nationality had been held for almost three years after being snatched in Mali in November 2011.
It’s not known if a ransom was paid but a Malian newspaper had claimed that several Islamist-linked militants held in Mali were set free.
After being released in Mali on Tuesday (Dec 9) by al Qaeda’s north African wing (AQIM), Lazarevic was transfered to neighbouring Niger.
Looking a bit dazed the 50-year-old businessman spoke to the press in Niger’s capital Niamey saying he was fine although he’d lost around 20 kilos. He then went on to thank Niger’s president and all the people who had worked on his behalf to gain his freedom.
During his captivity Lazarevic had appeared in several militant videos . His compatriot Phillippe Verdon with whom he’d been kidnapped, was killed last year in retaliation for France’s intervention in Mali.
The French government has repeatedly denied paying ransoms for hostages. A welcome from French President François Hollande has been arranged for his arrival in Paris early Wednesday morning (Dec 10).