At least $34m ransom paid for French hostages: Sources

At least $34m ransom paid for French hostages: Sources
Former French hostages Thierry Dol (C) and Daniel Larribe (R) arrive at Niamey's airport on October 30, 2013, on their way to France.

BAMAKO - A ransom of at least 20 million euros (S$34 million) was paid to secure the release of four Frenchmen freed after three years of captivity in Niger, a source close to the talks said on Wednesday.

"Between 20 and 25 million euros was paid to obtain the release of the French hostages," the source close to the Nigerien negotiating team said.

The money went to the hostage-takers and to intermediaries on the ground who played a key role in securing the release, the source added.

Le Monde newspaper also cited a French source with knowledge of the operation as saying that "more than 20 million euros" was paid as a ransom.

A Malian negotiator who participated in 2011 talks to release three hostages kidnapped at the same time as the quartet freed on Tuesday said that 13.5 million euros had been paid on that occasion.

"So for me, between 20 and 25 million euros seems a good figure," he told AFP.

The four men, who were kidnapped by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in northern Niger in 2010, arrived in Paris around 1045 GMT.

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