Four French hostages kidnapped three years ago in Niger have been released, French President Francois Hollande said during a visit to Slovakia.
They were seized Sept. 16, 2010 by an al-Qaeda offshoot near the uranium mine where they worked in northern Niger.
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian have flown to Niamey, the capital of Niger, to accompany the former hostages back to France, Hollande said.
Rene Robert, the grandfather of one of the hostages, told iTele television that Hollande phoned him today to give him the news, saying the four men were in good health.
Hollande gave no details about the release.
“I said from the moment I became president that I would use all the contacts possible to win their release,” Hollande said. France no longer pays ransoms for its hostages, he has said.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which operates across the Sahara, initially kidnapped seven people near the Arlit uranium mine. The following February, they released a French woman as well as a citizen of Togo and one from Madagascar.
Last month, a Mauritanian news agency received a video showing the four men, the first sign of their life in a year.
Today’s releases leave three French still held hostage by other groups in the Sahel and four in Syria.