Eight ex-hostages return to France
Paris negotiates a peaceful deal with Cameroonian militants, ending the 12-day ordeal.
12 November 2008
PARIS - Seven French oil workers and a Tunisian abducted from a ship off the coast of Cameroon returned to France Wednesday after Paris negotiated a peaceful end to their 12-day ordeal.
The eight former hostages were greeted at a Paris airport by human rights minister Rama Yade, their families and the ambassadors of Tunisia and Cameroon, a day after their release.
"This is a happy ending for the families and the hostages are in good health," said Yade.
The eight hostages and two Cameroonian co-workers were seized by gunmen who stormed aboard an oil field support ship operated by the French company Bourbon off the coast of Cameroon's Bakassi Peninsula on 31 October.
French diplomatic sources said Paris held negotiations with the hostage-takers to release the 10 but that no ransom was paid and no security operation took place.
The kidnappers from a group called the Bakassi Freedom Fighters (BFF) were allowed to walk free after they released the hostages, who were held in an unknown location on land.
The BFF is opposed to Cameroon's 2008 takeover of the Bakassi Peninsula from Nigeria, after the 15-year dispute was settled under international arbitration.
After initially threatening to kill the hostages one by one, the BFF withdrew the threat and insisted the crew was well-treated.
President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed relief at the release and the government thanked the Cameroonian government for its role.
Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said: "This event reminds us of the urgent necessity for the international community to fight against maritime piracy."
The two Cameroonian workers were to be reunited with their families, the Bourbon group said.
France in April launched a rescue operation to free a French luxury yacht, Le Ponant, and its 30-member crew captured by Somali pirates, and in September dispatched forces to release a French couple seized by Somali pirates on their yacht.
[AFP / Expatica]