- al Qaeda - France - hostages - Nicolas Sarkozy - Niger
Freed hostages to meet Sarkozy
The three hostages who were freed in Niger this week were set to meet French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris Saturday. The nationals of France, Madagascar and Togo were taken hostage in Niger last September along with four other French citizens.
AFP - Three nationals of France, Madagascar and Togo freed after being taken hostage by an Al-Qaeda regional offshoot in Niger were to meet French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Saturday, officials said.
"The president of the republic will receive the three hostages and their families at 2:30 pm (1330 GMT)," a source close to the presidency told AFP.
The three were freed overnight Friday in Niger territory. The details of how they were freed were unclear. A source said a ransom had been paid but declined to disclose the amount.
France Info radio reported Saturday that a French government plane had brought the French hostage, Françoise Larribe, to a military airport near Paris. An ambulance was later seen leaving the airport, France Info reported.
Larribe is suffering from cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy shortly before she was abducted.
A total of seven hostages including four other French nationals -- an executive of French nuclear giant Areva among them -- were seized in September in the west African country's uranium-mining town of Arlit and then taken into Mali. But they were later scattered and moved outside the country.
The group's abduction was claimed by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), whose leader warned France to pull its troops out of Afghanistan if it wanted to see the safe return of the French hostages.