PARIS - France's remaining hostage in the world, held since 2011 by Al Qaeda's north African arm, has been released, President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday.
Serge Lazarevic was held in the Sahara by AQIM for almost three years after being kidnapped in northern Mali. Hollande said Lazarevic was currently en route for Niamey, capital of neighbouring Niger, from where he would head back to Paris. "Serge Lazarevic, our last hostage, is free," Hollande told reporters during an official visit in Paris. "France has no more hostages, in any part of the world." Hollande's office said in a statement Lazarevic was in"relatively good health despite the very trying conditions of his long captivity." Both Nigerien and Malian authorities were involved in the release, the office of Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou said in a statement.
Last month, Lazarevic was seen in a video posted by AQIM imploring Hollande to "do everything" to free him." He said he suffered from high blood pressure and his kidneys hurt.
Another Frenchman kidnapped alongside Lazarevic, Philippe Verdon, was killed by his captors in northern Mali last year.
France launched an intervention against al Qaeda-linked militants in its former colony Mali in January 2013, a military action that spurred threats from insurgents of reprisals against French targets.