Frenchman held 3 years by al-Qaida freed in Africa

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French al-Qaeda Hostage Serge Lazarevic Freed
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Frenchman held 3 years by al-Qaida freed in Africa
This undated and unlocated photo provided Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, by the Support Committee for Philippe Verdon and Serge Lazarevic shows Frenchman Serge Lazarevic, hostage in Mali. A Frenchman seized in by al-Qaida in Mali in 2011 has appeared in a new video broadcast by an Arabic-language television network. In the video of Serge Lazarevic, broadcast Tuesday, June 3, 2014, on the Dubai-based Al-Aan network, the thickly-bearded hostage is flanked by two gunmen and wears a black turban. Lazarevic was seized in November 2011 along with Philippe Verdon, who was found dead last July with a gunshot to the head. (AP Photo/Comite de Soutien pour Philippe Verdon et Serge Lazarevic)
French president Francois Hollande , right, flanked by defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, addresses media as part of his tour the the Quartier des Celestins, the barracks housing the Republic Guard, in Paris, France, Tuesday, Dec. 9 2014. A Frenchman held for more than three years by al-Qaida's North African branch was freed Tuesday, days after two of the men implicated in his abduction were released. Serge Lazarevic is in "relatively good health" despite the conditions of his captivity, Hollande said in announcing his release. (AP Photo/Ian Langsdon, Pool)
French Serge Lazarevic ... - http://t.co/QZUdjLkZgT #AfricaIslamist #FrenchSergeLazarevic #PhilippeVerdon http://t.co/kBYNUyFfe0
This undated and unlocated photo provided Wednesday, Feb.6, 2013 by the Support Committee for Philippe Verdon and Serge Lazarevic shows Frenchman Serge Lazarevic, hostage in Mali. There was speculation that the pace of French forces advance in Mali was being constrained by the fact that the retreating rebels are holding Western hostages, including eight who are French. Fears have mounted about their safety as the French intervention has moved closer to where several of them are thought to be held. (AP Photo/Comite de Soutien pour Philippe Verdon et Serge Lazarevic)
Three men presented as the kidnappers of two Frenchmen snatched in Hombori north east of Mali on November 24, are shown to the press on December 12, 2011 in Bamako. 'The group responsible for the abduction of the two Frenchmen in Hombori were arrested by Mali's security services,' a security source said, giving no details of the number detained or the circumstances. Philippe Verdon and Serge Lazarevic were seized at gunpoint from their hotel in the town of Hombori near the border with Niger on November 24. AFP PHOTO / HABIB KOUYATE (Photo credit should read HABIB KOUYATE/AFP/Getty Images)
Arms taken from three men arrested and presented as the kidnappers of two Frenchmen snatched in Hombori north east of Mali on November 24, are shown to the press on December 12, 2011 in Bamako. 'The group responsible for the abduction of the two Frenchmen in Hombori were arrested by Mali's security services,' a security source said, giving no details of the number detained or the circumstances. Philippe Verdon and Serge Lazarevic were seized at gunpoint from their hotel in the town of Hombori near the border with Niger on November 24. AFP PHOTO / HABIB KOUYATE (Photo credit should read HABIB KOUYATE/AFP/Getty Images)
Three men presented as the kidnappers of two Frenchmen snatched in Hombori north east of Mali, near the border with Niger on November 24, are shown to the press on December 12, 2011 in Bamako. 'The group responsible for the abduction of the two Frenchmen in Hombori were arrested by Mali's security services,' a security source said, giving no details of the number detained or the circumstances. Philippe Verdon and Serge Lazarevic were seized at gunpoint from their hotel in the town of Hombori near the border with Niger on November 24. AFP PHOTO / HABIB KOUYATE (Photo credit should read HABIB KOUYATE/AFP/Getty Images)
"@Malijetactu: L’otage français aux mains d’AQMI, Serge Lazarevic bientôt libéré #Mali #Niger http://t.co/J1E4t9rWCN http://t.co/f8GPXTPgcs"
FILE - This undated and unlocated photo provided Wednesday, Feb.6, 2013 by the Support Committee for Philippe Verdon and Serge Lazarevic shows Frenchman Philippe Verdon, hostage in Mali. The Paris prosecutor's office says Thursday July 18, 2013 an autopsy shows that Verdon found dead in Mali was killed by a shot to the head. He was kidnapped in 2011 with an associate. Earlier this year, al-Qaida's North Africa arm claimed responsibility for his death.(AP Photo/Comite de Soutien pour Philippe Verdon et Serge Lazarevic, File)
This undated and unlocated photo provided Wednesday, Feb.6, 2013 by the Support Committee for Philippe Verdon and Serge Lazarevic shows Frenchman Philippe Verdon, hostage in Mali. There was speculation that the pace of French forces advance in Mali was being constrained by the fact that the retreating rebels are holding Western hostages, including eight who are French. Fears have mounted about their safety as the French intervention has moved closer to where several of them are thought to be held. (AP Photo/Comite de Soutien pour Philippe Verdon et Serge Lazarevic)
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PARIS (AP) -- A Frenchman held for more than three years by al-Qaida's North African branch was freed Tuesday, days after two of the men implicated in his abduction were released.

Serge Lazarevic is in "relatively good health" despite the conditions of his captivity, French President Francois Hollande said in announcing his release.

"We no longer have any hostages in any country of the world, and we should not have any," Hollande added.

A security official in Mali, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared for his safety, said Lazarevic's release came after negotiations to free two al-Qaida fighters arrested in their abduction.

The Frenchman kidnapped in Mali in 2011 along with Lazarevic, Philippe Verdon, was found dead in July 2013.

Hollande said the former hostage was en route to the capital of Niger, and thanked the Niger president specifically for helping in the release.

The two al-Qaida detainees were transferred to mediators in Niger on Saturday, and then turned over to al-Qaida. It was not clear if they had remained in Niger.

A French official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the issue is sensitive, confirmed Lazarevic was released Tuesday but declined to offer details on the release of the al-Qaida prisoners, beyond saying the negotiations were led by Mali and Niger.

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb took numerous Western hostages until France intervened in Mali in January 2013 to rout extremists. Hostage-taking has proved to be a lucrative business in Mali and other Sahel countries. Hollande's government insists it pays no ransoms, although he has acknowledged that prisoner exchanges have been made on behalf of French hostages.

American officials have quietly accused France among other European countries of paying ransoms.

At one point, at least 14 French nationals were held hostage by Islamic militants in West Africa. Lazarevic, abducted in November 2011, was the last Frenchman known to be held.

Lazarevic and Verdon were kidnapped from their hotel in Hombori in northeastern Mali in November 2011. Their families have said they were in the region doing a feasibility study for a future cement factory.

Video from during his imprisonment:

French and Dutch Hostages Appear in Video Linked to Al Qaeda

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