PARIS (AP) — A French journalist who was held hostage by Islamic extremists for nearly two years in Mali was welcomed home by French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday, one day after his release.
Olivier Dubois was kidnapped in April 2021 in northern Mali, a region wracked by jihadi violence linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.
Leaving the plane at the Villacoublay military airport, southwest of Paris, with a big smile on his face, Dubois was applauded by the group of people waiting for his arrival. He was greeted with great joy by his sister and father, and then he hugged Macron.
Speaking to French media, Dubois said he listened to French radio to keep himself sane in captivity and read the Quran “to understand” his captors. Dubois told RFI radio Tuesday that although he was not “hit or humiliated,” it was a grueling experience.
“You are chained, you are a prisoner, you are considered a disbeliever, an infidel,” he said. “It was living outside all the time — whether there’s a sandstorm, the sun, the cold or the rain … It’s washing and defecating outside. It’s living outside all the time.”
The conditions of Dubois’ release, including whether it involved a ransom, have not been disclosed.
Reporters Without Borders, also known by its French acronym RSF, thanked French authorities on Monday for “having implemented the necessary means to obtain his release,” without elaborating.
Dubois’ release took place on the same day that an American aid worker was freed in Mali.
Jihadi groups have been abducting hostages for ransom as a way to fund their operations and expand their presence. At least 25 foreigners and untold numbers of locals have been kidnapped in the Sahel — the vast, semi-arid expanse below the Sahara Desert — since 2015, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.
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