A Frenchman who was held for more than three years by al-Qaida in its North Africa branch has been freed, France president Francois Hollande said Tuesday. Associated Press reports:
Serge Lazarevic is in “relatively good health” despite the conditions of his captivity, President Francois Hollande said. The Frenchman kidnapped along with Lazarevic, Philippe Verdon, was found dead in July 2013.
“We no longer have any hostages in any country of the world, and we should not have any,” Hollande said.
He said the former hostage was en route to Niger, whose president Hollande specifically thanked for helping in the release.
Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb took numerous Western hostages until France intervened in Mali in January 2013 to rout extremists. Hostage-taking has proved to be a lucrative business in Mali and other Sahel countries. Hollande’s government insists it pays no ransoms, although American officials have said otherwise.
At one point, at least 14 French nationals were held hostage by Islamic militants in West Africa. Lazarevic, abducted in November 2011, was the last Frenchman known to be held.