French journalists abducted in Syria freed
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Four French journalists were found by Turkish soldiers on the border with Syria on Saturday after being abducted by the rebel group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria last June.
Journalists Nicolas Henin, Pierre Torres, Edouard Elias and Didier Francois were found in Sanliurfa province tied-up and blindfolded, the Dogan News Agency said.
“I am so happy to be free!” said Europe 1 radio journalist Didier François, smiling broadly and sporting a long beard.
"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." he added outside a police station in the small Turkish town of Akcakle near the Syrian border.
The office of French President François Hollande confirmed that the four journalists were “in good health, in spite of the very gruelling conditions of their captivity” and that they were scheduled to return home to France early Sunday.
Hollande also said in a statement he felt “immense relief” after learning of their release.
Case highlights dangers of journalism
Francois, a veteran war correspondent working for Europe 1 radio, and Elias, a photographer, were abducted in early June on their way to Aleppo. Henin, who was working for Le Point magazine and Torres, reporting for French-German television channel Arte, were taken later that month.
The local news agency reported that the journalists were immediately taken to a hospital before being handed over to the French authorities.
While the release of the four journalists is good news, the case does highlight the plight of journalists around the world, as two French journalists remain missing in the Sahel region of North Africa. The French president took the release of the journalists in Syria as an opportunity to reaffirm his commitment to seeking the release of those journalists still in captivity.
Hollande reiterated “his support to their families" and well as "his determination and the relentless mobilisation of the state” to fight for their release.
Reporters Without Borders reports that 11 journalists have already died so far this year, and according to the Committee to Protect Journalists Syria is the most dangerous place in the world for journalists.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)