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Monday, April 21, 2014, 11:18
Joyful homecoming for French journalists
By Reuters in Villacoublay Airbase, France

Joyful homecoming for French journalists

Nicolas Henin (left) is greeted by family members after he and three other French journalists arrived at the military air base in Villacoublay near Paris on Sunday. They had been held hostage in Syria since June. (Photo by Philippe Wojazer / Reuters)

Four French journalists held captive in Syria for more than 10 months returned home to France on Sunday, freshly shaved and beaming, where they were met at an air base by President Francois Hollande, their families and friends.

Nicolas Henin, Pierre Torres, Edouard Elias and Didier Francois smiled at a crowd of journalists, some of them colleagues, after descending from a military helicopter at the Villacoublay air base southwest of Paris.

"It's a great joy and an immense relief, obviously, to be free. Under the sky, which we haven't seen for a long time, to breathe the fresh air, walk freely," veteran reporter Francois, from radio station Europe 1, said in an impromptu speech at the side of his fellow ex-hostages and Hollande.

French authorities have released no details of the men's liberation, but Turkey's Dogan News Agency first reported that an unknown group transported the journalists blindfolded and with hands bound on Friday night to the southeastern border of Turkey, where they were discovered by Turkish soldiers.

After identifying themselves as journalists, the group was taken to police headquarters in Sanliurfa province and seen by doctors, Turkish authorities said.

Francois and his Europe 1 colleague Elias were abducted in early June en route to Aleppo.

Henin, working for Le Point magazine, and Torres, for French-German television channel Arte, were captured later in June, but French authorities did not announce their kidnapping until October.

Last month, two Spanish journalists were freed after being held hostage in Syria since September by the ISIL rebel group.

 
 
 
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