French hostage held by Islamist extremists in Nigeria in daring escape on motorbike
John Lichfield has been The Independent's man in Paris since 1997, covering French news. Before that, he was the paper's Foreign Editor and he has also worked in Brussels and Washington. In 1999, he was the UK press Awards Foreign Reporter of the year.
Sunday 17 November 2013
A French engineer held hostage by Islamist extremists in northern Nigeria made a daring escape on a motorcycle taxi at the weekend while his captors were being attacked by the Nigerian army.
Francis Collomp, 63, is expected to return to Paris today after fleeing his kidnappers in Zaria, in northern Nigeria, on Saturday.
Mr Collomp, who was seized by an islamist group linked to Boko Haram last December, discovered that his room was unlocked while his captors were under siege by Nigerian soldiers. He ran into the street, flagged down a passing motorcycle taxi and asked to be taken to the nearest police station.
President Francois Hollande, who spoke to Mr Collomp in the police station by telephone, confirmed the scape during a visit to Israel. “We are very happy for him,” Mr Hollande said. “But we do not forget that we have (seven) other hostages around the world.”
The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, flew to Nigeria yesterday to bring Mr Collomp home. The engineer was kidnapped on his birthday, 19 December last year, when 30 men attacked his home in northern Nigeria, killing a security guard and a neighbour.
A Nigerian Police commissioner, Olufemi Adenaike, said yesterday that Mr Collomp had been moved by his captors to Zaria three months ago. “He escaped yesterday and boarded a commercial motorcycle taxi to the nearest police station,” Mr Adenaike said. “We handed him over to the French embassy this morning.”
French diplomatic sources said the escape occurred during a Nigerian army raid. Boko Haram, the Islamist fundamentalist movement based in northern Nigeria, claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of a French priest, father Georges Vandenbeusch, in Cameroon last Wednesday.
Four French mining engineers held by Islamist extremists in the Sahara since 2010 were freed last month amid rumours that the French government, or their company, Areva, had paid a large ransom. The other six French hostages are in Mali and Syria.
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