PARIS (AFP) - Four French journalists held captive in Syria for almost a year were free and "in good health" on Saturday, French President Francois Hollande told AFP, saying they would be back in France within hours.
In a statement to AFP, the President said he had "learned with great relief this morning of the liberation of the four French journalists". Mr Hollande said the four, who had been held in Syria since 2013, were "in good health despite the very challenging conditions of their captivity". Thanking "all those who contributed to the successful outcome", the President said the men would return to France "in the coming hours".
One of the hostages said in Turkey on Saturday he was “very happy to be free", the Dogan News Agency reported. Mr Didier Francois, smiling broadly and wearing a long beard, spoke briefly to a journalist at a police station in the Turkish town of Akcakle near the Syrian border, according to images broadcast by the Turkish agency.
Dogan said the four men were found by Turkish soldiers on the border with their hands bound and blindfolded.
Mr Francois, a reporter for Europe 1 radio, and photographer Edouard Elias were taken north of Aleppo on June 6, 2013.
Mr Nicolas Henin, reporter for Point magazine, and freelance photographer Pierre Torres were seized two weeks later in the north of the country, at Raqqa.
It was not immediately clear if they had been freed by their captors or had escaped.
"I share the joy of the families of our compatriots who have endured... the fear of this trying time," said Mr Hollande.
He reaffirmed his "deep commitment to the freedom of the press, which demands respect for the security and integrity of journalists in their role of providing information".
Mr Hollande said his attention was now with two other French citizens still held in the Sahel region of Africa, reaffirming his "determination" and the "relentless mobilisation of the state's forces to obtain their liberation".