Escaped hostage debriefs French intelligence
PARIS, Jan 10, 2006 (AFP) - A French engineer released at the weekend from five weeks' captivity in Iraq was debriefed on Tuesday by France's security services over his hostage ordeal.
Bernard Planche, 52, was being questioned by the DGSE foreign intelligence agency at a base near the Loire Valley city of Orleans, after an initial debriefing in Iraq immediately after his release.
The Frenchman, who was abducted in Baghdad on December 5 by a little known Iraqi insurgent group, escaped Saturday from a farmhouse west of the capital where he was being held, and was flown back to France on Monday.
According to the United States military, whose version of events was confirmed by French authorities, Planche’s captors suddenly abandoned the farm to avoid a patrol of US and Iraqi troops in the area.
Iraqi officials earlier gave a different account of his release.
The low-key approach of Planche’s family and the French authorities contrasted with previous high-profile campaigns to win the release of three French journalists kidnapped in Iraq.
Uncertainty about Planche’s work in Iraq, for a virtually unknown aid group specialising in water distribution, and the circumstances of his release fueled media speculation over the true reason for his presence in the war-torn country.
Several French intelligence officials denied on Tuesday that he was linked to the secret services.
One official, speaking on condition of anonymity, described Planche as a “loner”, saying he was “not a member of the French intelligence services”. Another said Planche was a “desperado” but not a spy.
The engineer, who was welcomed back to France by Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, has given no details of his detention or escape.
Subject: French news