by Emily Michael
While delivering a speech during his visit to Slovakia on Tuesday, President Hollande of France announced, “I have some good news. I just learned from Niger’s president that our four hostages in the Sahel, the Arlit hostages, have been released.” The president was referring to the four men- Thierry Dol, Daniel Larribe, Pierre Legrand and Marc Feret- who were taken as hostages during raids on September 16, 2010. An extremist group known as Abou Zaid, an affiliate Al-Qaeda in Mali, took responsibility for the attacks on the French controlled uranium mine in Arlit, northern Niger. The country is the 6th largest producer of uranium in the world, so the attack was believed to try and hinder the mining and therefore cripple the Nigerian government and economy. A French delegation attempted negotiations for the hostages following the attacks, but Al-Qaeda made no demands and has simply kept the four employees during the last three years.
That all, however, changed on Tuesday, October 29, 2013 when President Hollande received word from the Nigerian president that the hostages had been released, saying, “I want to express all my gratitude to the President of Niger who obtained the release of our compatriots.” The circumstances of this release remain unknown, though it is possible their employer, Areva may have had a hand in ransoming their freedom, as the French government is vehemently against such action. Since these and recent attacks in May,2013, Areva’s Arlit operation has increased and improved its security measures, hoping to better protect its employees. The May attack resulted in one death and 14 injuries, a staggering number for a region that had just taken a heavy blow from the French. Early this year, French troops pushed Islamists out of Northern Mali in the hopes that this would help the prisoners, not lead to their demise. Obviously this lent to their release, bringing much joy and excitement to anyone who was a part of the effort.
This excitement and gratitude is shared by the many families who await their loved one’s return. Family members have been running a vocal campaign in support of their release, hoping that something could be done to bring these four men home. Now, they all wait as their family members are checked for health conditions and cleared of any life threatening issues. It will truly be a memorable moment when these hostages return home.
This post reflects the author’s personal opinions, not the opinions of Arizona Model United Nations.