Sunday, November 17, 2013

French Hostage Held In Nigeria Escapes His Captors

French engineer abducted in December escapes from his cell in northern Nigeria and hails taxi to take him to police station

REUTERS

 President Francois Hollande gave details about Francis Collomp's escape when he arrived in Israel for a three day visit. Photograph: Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

.A French engineer held hostage by Islamist militants in northern Nigeria for almost a year has escaped, President Francois Hollande said on Sunday. Hollande gave no details about the escape, but a Nigerian police official told Reuters that Francis Collomp had slipped out of his cell and managed to find a motorcycle taxi which took him to a police station.

Collomp, who is in his sixties, was seized when about 30 gunmen stormed his compound on 19 December in the northern Nigerian town of Rimi, close to the Niger border where al-Quaida's North African wing, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), operates.

"The president expresses his gratitude to the Nigerian authorities, with whom French authorities have collaborated closely on this decisive action," Hollande's office said in a statement on Sunday.

Arriving in Israel for a state visit, Hollande later said Collomp had freed himself and that the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, who arrived in Israel with Hollande, was flying to Nigeria to receive him.

Nigerian police commissoner Olufemi Adenaike said Collomp had been moved to the town of Zaria, in northern Nigeria, in the past three months and had fled from there. A diplomatic source told Reuters that Collomp was weak and had lost a lot of weight but was not injured.

Collomp's wife, Anne-Marie, told French radio that Hollande had called her to inform her her husband was free. "I have heard that he has escaped, I say bravo my husband, bravo," she said.

In September, Collomp – an engineer at French renewable energy firm Vergnet – asked for help in a three-minute video posted on a jihadi website.

Ansaru, the militant group that kidnapped him, said soon after his abduction that he had been taken in retaliation for France's military action against jihadi insurgents in Mali and its ban on wearing the full-face veil.
Britain has put Ansaru on its official "terrorist group" list, saying it is aligned with al-Qaida and was behind the kidnapping of a British national and a Italian who were killed last year during a failed rescue attempt.
The group is thought to have loose ties to the better-known Islamist militant sect Boko Haram, which has killed thousands in a four year insurgency focused mostly on Nigerian security forces, religious targets and politicians.

Collomp's release comes just weeks after four French hostages kidnapped in Niger by AQIM, were released on 29 October after three years in captivity.

Seven other French nationals are being held hostage in Syria, Mali and Nigeria, including French priest Georges Vandenbeusch, who was kidnapped in northern Cameroon last week and is believed to be held in Nigeria.
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