Four French hostages kidnapped in Niger by an Al Qaeda affiliate in September 2010 have been released.
Pierre Legrand, Daniel Larribe, Thierry Dol and Marc Feret were working for French nuclear group Areva and a subsidiary of construction group Vinci in Arlit, Niger, when Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) seized them.
AQIM also kidnapped Larribe's wife, Francoise, who was ill, Jean-Claude Rakotorilalao of Madagascar and Alex Awando from Togo. Francoise Larribe, Rakotorilalao and Awando were released in 2011.
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"(It has been) three years of suffering for these citizens who have been held by jailers without scruples and three years of suffering for the families who have lived hell and today are relieved," French President Francois Hollande, currently on a visit to Slovakia, told reporters at a news conference.
Hollande said Niger President Mohamadou Issoufou secured the release of the hostages.
The French government has paid for hostages in the past, authorizing French and Cameroonian negotiators to give Boko Haram about $3.15 million to release seven French hostages in April, according to a confidential Nigerian government report seen by Reuters.
But Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, speaking to French television from Niamey, denied the French government had paid a ransom in this case.