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Four French journalists held hostage in Syria for 10 months have been released, officials said Saturday, the latest batch of reporters to be freed in what has become the world's deadliest conflict for the media.
President Francois Hollande's office said in a statement that he felt "immense relief" over the release of Edouard Elias, Didier Francois, Nicolas Henin and Pierre Torres — all said to be in good health in neighboring Turkey despite the "very trying conditions" of their captivity.
"We are very happy to be free ... and it's very nice to see the sky, to be able to walk, to be able to ... speak freely," said Francois, who works for Europe 1 radio, in footage recorded by the private Turkish news agency DHA as the journalists left a police station.
A DHA report said soldiers on patrol found the four blindfolded and handcuffed in Turkey's southeast Sanliurfa province late Friday.
It wasn't clear whether a ransom had been paid for their release, nor which group in Syria's chaotic 3-year-old conflict held the men. In his statement, Hollande thanked "all those" who contributed to the journalists' release without elaborating. Longstanding French practice is to name a specific country that contributed to hostage releases. France denies it pays ransom to free its hostages.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement that freedom for the hostages "was the result of long, difficult, precise, and necessarily discrete work."
Hollande's office said the four would return soon to France. It did not provide details about the conditions of their release.
At least two of the French journalists were taken after being interrogated by extremist fighters of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant in the eastern province of Raqqa, said a Syrian activist who said he accompanied the journalists as translator and guide.
The four went missing in June2013. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said in April that 61 journalists were kidnapped in Syria in 2013, while more than 60 have been killed since the conflict began.