Four French journalists held hostage in Syria for 10 months freed

10-month ordeal ends when men are found bound and blindfolded in southeast Turkey

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 April, 2014, 5:39am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 April, 2014, 5:39am


Four French journalists held hostage in Syria for 10 months had been released, officials said yesterday, the latest batch of reporters to be freed in what has become the world's deadliest conflict for the media.

President Francois Hollande's office said he felt "immense relief" over the release of Edouard Elias, Didier Francois, Nicolas Henin and Pierre Torres, all said to be in good health in neighbouring Turkey.

"We are very happy to be free ... and it's very nice to see the sky, to be able to walk, to be able to ... speak freely," said Francois, who works for Europe 1 radio, in footage recorded by private Turkish news agency DHA as the journalists left a police station.

Elias, a freelance photographer, also was working for Europe 1 radio. Henin and Torres are freelance journalists.

A DHA report said soldiers on patrol found the four blindfolded and handcuffed in Turkey's southeast Sanliurfa province late on Friday.

Turkish television also aired images of the four at the police station and then a local hospital.

It was not clear whether a ransom had been paid for their release, nor which group in Syria's chaotic three-year-old conflict held the men.

Hollande thanked "all those" who contributed to the journalists' release without elaborating. France denies it pays ransom to free its hostages.

France's foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said freedom for the hostages "was the result of long, difficult, precise, and necessarily discrete work".

Journalists around France rejoiced at the news of their colleagues' liberation.

The four went missing in June 2013 in two incidents. Reporters Without Borders has called Syria "the most dangerous country in the world" for journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists said in April that 61 journalists were kidnapped in Syria in 2013, while more than 60 have been killed since the conflict began.

At least two of the French journalists were taken after being interrogated by extremist fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in the eastern province of Raqqa, said a Syrian activist.

Hussam al-Ahmad, 23, said Henin and Torres aroused the fighters' suspicion after he and the two journalists entered a school and asked to take photographs of them as they played football.