Syria conflict: Four French journalists freed after spending almost a year as hostages

The four men were found blindfolded and handcuffed after going missing in June 2013

Four French journalists have been released after being held hostage in Syria for 10 months, officials said Saturday.

Edouard Elias, Didier Francois, Nicolas Henin and Pierre Torres are the latest group of reporters to be freed in what has become the world’s deadliest conflict for the media.

President Francois Hollande's office said in a statement that the French leader felt “immense relief” over the news and that the four were all said to be in good health despite the “very trying conditions” of their captivity.

“We are very happy to be free ... and it's very nice to see the sky, to be able to walk, to be able to ... speak freely,” said Francois, who works for Europe 1 radio, in footage recorded by the private Turkish news agency DHA as the journalists left a police station.

Elias, a photographer, also worked for Europe 1 radio. Henin and Torres are freelance journalists.

 

DHA said soldiers on patrol found the four blindfolded and handcuffed in southeast Sanliurfa province late Friday. Turkish television showed pictures of the four at the police station and then a local hospital.

It remained unclear whether a ransom had been paid for their release, or which group had held the men. France denies it pays ransom to free its hostages.

In his statement Hollande thanked “all those” who had contributed to the journalists’ release without elaborating and said the four would return soon to France. French Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal declined to comment.

The four went missing in June 2013 in two incidents. Press freedom advocate Reporters Without Borders has called Syria “the most dangerous country in the world” for journalists. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said in December that at least 30 journalists are being held and 52 have been killed since Syria's civil war began in early 2011.

The widespread seizure of journalists is unprecedented, and has been largely unreported by news organizations in the hope that keeping the kidnappings out of public view may help to negotiate the captives' release.

Jihadi groups, particularly an al-Qa’ida-breakaway group called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, are believed responsible for most kidnappings that have taken place since 2013. Government-backed militias, criminal gangs and more moderate rebel factions also have been involved, with motives ranging from ransom to prisoner exchanges.

The release of the four French men comes after three Spanish reporters held by the group were freed in March.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

Read more: British teenager killed in Syria
'We will be martyrs', say rebel fighters
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £30,000+

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for individual...

Recruitment Genius: IT Project Coordinator / Manager

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy