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French hostage freed from Syria says he is "very happy to be free"

Didier Francois was one of four Frenchmen kidnapped in Syria ten months ago.

Florence Aubenas, holding a microphone at center, a French journalist who was held hostage in Iraq, delivers her speech during a gathering for Europe-1 radio reporter Didier Francois and independent photographer Edouard Elias.
Florence Aubenas, holding a microphone at center, a French journalist who was held hostage in Iraq, delivers her speech during a gathering for Europe-1 radio reporter Didier Francois and independent photographer Edouard Elias.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

ONE OF THE four French hostages freed after 10 months in captivity in Syria said that he was “very happy to be free”, Turkey’s Dogan News Agency reported.

Didier Francois, smiling broadly and wearing a long beard, spoke briefly to a journalist at a police station in the small Turkish town of Akcakle near the Syrian border, according to images broadcast by the Turkish agency.

Francois, along with his colleagues Edouard Elias, Nicolas Henin and Pierre Torres, were found by Turkish soldiers on the border, with their hands bound and blindfolded, Dogan reported.

“I’m very happy to be free. We just came from Syria,” Francois said.

We are very happy to be free. We thank the Turkish authorities because they really helped us. It’s very nice to see the sky, to be able to walk and to speak freely.

The four — who were seized in June 2013 — had been left abandoned in a no-man’s land between Turkey and Syria overnight Friday, Dogan said.

The military patrol that came across them at first thought they were smugglers but then noticed one of the men spoke French and took them to the local police station.

Turkish television stations showed footage of the four, with long hair and beards but apparently in good health, going in and out of the police station.

French President Francois Hollande announced earlier that the four men had been freed after their long ordeal.

Read: Turkey has shot down a Syrian war plane

Read: Three years on and tens of thousands dead: Syria’s bloody civil war continues

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