Last French hostage arrives home after 3 years

Last French hostage arrives home after 3 years

Wed 10 Dec 2014 at 09:54


NNA – France’s last remaining hostage, Serge Lazarevic, arrived home Wednesday after three years at the hands of Islamist militants, to be greeted by his family and French President Francois Hollande.

The beaming 51-year-old, dressed casually in a blue hooded top, was welcomed warmly by Hollande at a military airport outside Paris before an emotional embrace with his mother and sister.

Lazarevic, sporting a closely-cropped beard, shared a joke with Hollande and the rest of his family after exiting the jet with his daughter.

He was expected to be taken immediately to a military hospital for check-ups before returning to the comfort of his family, according to a diplomatic source.

“The doctor gave him a check-up on the plane and he’s doing well,” this source said.

Lazarevic was the last of more than a dozen French citizens taken captive in recent years, with those held in Africa reaching a high of 15 last year. Four journalists held by Syrian jihadists were released earlier this year.

There was no immediate information on how the release was secured or whether France paid a ransom.

Lazarevic was snatched by armed men in Mali on November 24, 2011 while on a business trip with fellow Frenchman Philippe Verdon in a kidnapping claimed by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Verdon, who suffered from an ulcer and tachycardia — an abnormally fast heartbeat — was found shot dead last year, and those close to his family suggested he had been executed because he was weak.

Lazarevic, speaking in the capital of Niger after meeting with President Mahamadou Issoufou following his release, said: “I lost about 20 kilos, but I’m in fine shape.

“I would like to thank the president of Niger (and) the people of Niger, who worked with France for my freedom,” he said.

A Malian security source said the final stages of Lazarevic’s release had taken place in the northern desert city of Kidal.

“I won’t say if there was a ransom payment or liberation of prisoners,” the source told AFP.