Four French hostages captured by Al Qaeda in Niger, West Africa in 2010 have been freed.
French President Francois Hollande says the men, who were taken during an attack on a uranium mine on September 16, 2010, near Arlit, northern Niger, will return home soon.
A source close to President Hollande tells the AFP the men, who are identified as Thierry Dol, Daniel Larribe, Pierre Legrand, and Marc Feret are in good health.
“We can’t say that they’re in great health but their health is fine.” the source was quoted as saying.
It is believed that the French hostages were held in neighboring Mali.
According to a report from NPR in 2010, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for snatching the four men.
One woman and two other African men were also seized, but they were released in February of 2011.
All the hostages including the French citizens released today were working for the French Areva uranium mine.
Hollande made the announcement of the release of the French hostages while he visiting Slovakia.
The BBC reported on the statement by the President:
“Breaking from the script of the speech he was giving, he said: ‘I have some good news. I just learned from Niger’s president that our four hostages in the Sahel, the Arlit hostages, have been released.’
“‘I want to express all my gratitude to the President of Niger who obtained the release of our compatriots.'”
No further comment was made by Hollande.
The BBC reports that family and friends of the four men knew the French hostages were alive, but did not know their release was imminent.
The conditions of the release were not revealed, but the French government is denying any ransom was paid in the attempts to free the hostages.
“[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,” Hollande said during a news conference in Slovakia.
No news about the fate of three Swedish, Dutch, and South African men who were also held by AQIM was provided at this time.
The release of the French hostages comes as a poll shows Hollande is the most unpopular President on record.
A Reuters reporter at the airport said the hostages were bearded, looked tired, and were dressed in traditional attire worn by desert people. None of the released French hostages spoke to the press.