A French family, including four young children, that was taken hostage in February by Islamists in Cameroon arrived back in France early Saturday morning, where they were greeted by French President François Hollande.
A French family of seven arrived back in France early Saturday morning following more than two months in captivity after they were taken hostage by Islamist militants in Cameroon.
The Moulin-Fournier family -- three adults and four boys between 5 and 12 years of age -- arrived from the Cameroonian capital Yaounde on a French government jet, accompanied by Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
With blankets draped over their shoulders against the morning chill, the Moulin-Fourniers were welcomed by President François Hollande as they stepped off the plane and onto French soil once more.
"It's over, we made it," said Tanguy Moulin-Fournier, the father. "I am very happy to be back in France; it's a great moment."
French family returns home after two-month long hostage ordeal
"France, as a family, is relieved and happy," Hollande told those gathered at the airport. "We are overcome with joy."
"Today, life has won," he added.
Tanguy and Albane Moulin-Fournier, their four children and Tanguy's brother Cyril were visiting the Waza National Park in northern Cameroon when they were kidnapped by armed men.
The hostages were then taken to neighbouring Nigeria and held by Boko Haram, an al Qaeda-linked Islamist group blamed for an insurgency in northern Nigeria and a series of deadly attacks since 2009 that has left more than 3,000 people dead.
But in a surprise development on Thursday night, the family was transferred to the Cameroonian authorities, thinner but otherwise in good health.
A statement early on Friday from France’s Elysée Palace said Hollande welcomed the news of the family’s release “with immense relief”. Hollande thanked both the Cameroonian and Nigerian authorities for their efforts, particularly Cameroon’s President Paul Biya.
But the president’s statement also recalled the eight French nationals still being held in the Sahel region, reiterating the government’s support for their families and its determination to work for their release.
The French government has not elaborated on what led to the family’s release, but denied that any ransom had been paid and said there was no military operation launched to free them.
Moulin-Fournier, an employee of French energy firm GDF Suez, had been based in Yaounde with his wife and their four sons since 2011. His brother Cyril Moulin-Fournier was visiting them from his home in Barcelona when the family was seized.
“It has been very long and difficult, it was hard psychologically and we had some very low moments,” Tanguy said in Yaounde, upon his release. “But we stuck together and that was crucial. As a family, we kept up each other's spirits.”
(FRANCE 24 with wires)
Date created : 2013-04-20