Madagascar gang free French hostage after ransom paid

Kidnappers in Madagascar have freed a French executive, whom they admitted was mistakenly targeted, in exchange for an undisclosed ransom, the victim said Friday.

Francois Raphael, director of construction firm Henri Fraise, was held for three days by four balaclava-clad, armed men who abducted him on Monday evening.

"I was released yesterday night at around 9:30 pm (1830 GMT), I got home all right," he told AFP by telephone on Friday.

"A ransom was paid, but you will understand that we do not want to disclose the amount."

He did not see the faces of his abductors as he was blindfolded, and was held 50 metres from his home.

The kidnappers had contacted his wife on Tuesday and apologised, saying they had wanted to kidnap the company's chairman who is currently in New York.

"There was no abuse," he said, saying he did not know why they had been targeted.

After an initial demand of 300,000 euros (around $395,000), the ransom was dropped to around 240,000 euros after telephone negotiations with the family.

Raphael, 39, has lived in Madagascar for 10 months. He is married and has three children.

Kidnappings have increased on the Indian Ocean island in recent months, where security has worsened since the ouster of president Marc Ravalomanana in 2009.