French Hostage Held by Nigerian Extremists Freed After 11 Months

A French hostage held for almost a year in Nigeria by Islamist extremists has been freed, according to France’s government.

President Francois Hollande lauded Nigerian authorities for their “decisive action” to secure the release of Francis Collomp, who had been held in captivity since Dec. 20, 2012, the presidency said in a statement posted on the elysee.fr website.

Ansaru, a splinter group of Boko Haram, had claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of the French engineer who had been working for turbine manufacturer Vergnet SA on a wind-energy project in the town of Rimi in northern Nigeria, when gunmen stormed his home.

Ansaru, whose full name is Jamaatu Anrul Muslimina Fi Biladissudan, or “Vanguards for the Protection of Muslims in the Land of the Blacks,” had said it took the hostages as a response to the “atrocities done to the religion of Allah” by European nations.

Several French kidnappings have occurred in the region since France sent troops in Mali to fight Islamists and rebel forces that had taken control of northern Mali, a nation that vies with Tanzania as Africa’s third-biggest gold producer.

“This much anticipated news will not make us forget that seven of our nationals are still held hostage in Syria, Mali and Nigeria,” according to the government statement, which said France will continue to work toward their freedom.

Chris Olukolade, a spokesman for Nigeria’s defense ministry, declined to comment on Collomp’s release, as did Nigerian national police spokesman Frank Mba.

To contact the reporter on this story: Yinka Ibukun in Lagos at yibukun@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net

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