Frenchman Held for 3 Years by Al Qaeda Freed in Africa
PARIS (AP) — France’s last hostage was freed Tuesday after being held for more than three years by al-Qaida’s North Africa branch — rekindling debate over whether countries should negotiate with extremists or stick to a muscular, uncompromising policy that runs the risk of a beheading or a botched rescue attempt.
French President Francois Hollande announced the “happy news” that 51-year-old Serge Lazarevic had been freed from captivity in Mali, prompting a standing ovation in the National Assembly.
“We no longer have any hostages in any country of the world, and we should not have any,” Hollande said.
TV images hours later showed a smiling Lazarevic — bald, goateed and 40 pounds (20 kilograms) lighter — as he met with Niger’s president. He was to fly to France early Wednesday.