REPORTER: After secret talks, four French hostages, kidnapped three years ago by al Qaeda's north African wing in Niger, have finally been released. The freed hostages were flown into Niger's capital where they were greeted by the French foreign and defence ministers and the Niger President.
PRESIDENT OF NIGER MAHAMADOU ISSOUFOU: "Niger is pleased about the liberation of the hostages. The liberation of the hostages took place in close collaboration with President Hollande. As you know it is more than 3 years since the hostages were kidnapped and Niger took measures to ensure their freedom which happened today."
REPORTER: Pierre Legrand, Daniel Larribe, Thierry Dol and Marc Feret were kidnapped by the Islamic Maghreb organisation in September 2010. Visibly tired, dressed in traditional robes with long beards, they still managed a smile. Dol said the years in captivity had been extremely difficult, the ordeal of a life-time. They were seized in raids targeting two French firms operating a uranium mine near Arlit. The men were all employees at the mine of the French nuclear company Areva. The conditions of the release were not clear but the French government has denied it paid a ransom. There were sporadic signs the men were still alive, such as this video filmed around two years after they were first kidnapped... But many were concerned for their lives after France's military campaign in neighbouring Mali earlier this year.
The big question is how much ransom money did the French government pay?