An emotionally-charged day saw the safe return of all four French journalists kidnapped in Syria lalmost a year ago
On Sunday morning at the military aerodrome in Villacoublay (Yveliness), the four former hostages – Edouard Elias, Didier François, Pierre Torres and Nicolas Henin emerged from a plane and were presented to a joyous French public, having travelled via Turkey and Evreux (in the Norman department of Eure).
They were greeted by President François Hollande and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius in an official capacity but also by their loved-ones.
“It’s a joyful day for France,” François Hollande declared, while sole ex-hostage spokesman Didier François said that he “never doubted” but that they would see their families once again. Fabius spoke too and indicated that some of the journalists’ captors spoke French and that they “were not treated too harshly”.
For its part, the French intelligence/counter-terrorism agency DGSE (Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure) said that it had been closely following the fate of the hostages from the very beginning and were aware at all times of their approximate location, also adding that they were working very closely with their colleagues in the British, Spanish and American secret services.
Fabius’ comments on some of the hostage-takers being French-speaking has aroused a lot of anger amongst certain French, particularly those of the far-right. It isn’t unusual to find French-speakers in the former French dependency of Syria, but it is believed that Fabius is referring to a growing band of French “Jihadists” – impressionable young French nationals of Arabic extraction who have been seduced into fighting a “holy war” in Syria.Marseille-born lawyer and Front National deputy Gilbert Collard has called on the French government to “prevent the French Jihadists from re-entering (the country)”. Speaking on France 5 television, the Gard representative said that one would want to be “completely brain-dead or brainwashed not to be worried… What I’m concerned about is not only the fact that they went there but that they are going to come back.” He said that they must be “prevented from entering” French territory on their return.
But many more voices of the centre and of the Left in France have been expressing similar sentiments, with the feeling that those whose nationalities are divided in a time of conflict should have their passports revoked.