French hostage escapes in Nigeria

AFP-JIJI

A French engineer abducted by Islamist militants in Nigeria last year has managed to escape, slipping out of his cell and hailing a taxi to take him to police.

President Francois Hollande announced Sunday that Francis Collomp, 63, was free after being taken by Islamist militants on Dec. 19 in the state of Katsina in northern Nigeria.

Collomp escaped in the northern city of Zaria on Saturday while his captors were praying, said Femi Adenaike Adeleye, the police commissioner in the regional capital of Kaduna. “He watched his captors’ prayer time. They always prayed for 15 minutes. And yesterday they did not lock the door to his cell,” Adeleye said. “While they were at prayer he sneaked out and began to run.” Collomp stopped a motorcycle taxi and had it take him to the nearest police station.

Collomp left Abuja on a flight for Paris late Sunday, accompanied by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

Didier Le Bret, the head of the French Foreign Ministry’s crisis center, earlier said Collomp was “weakened” but in good enough health to travel. Collomp lost 30 kg during his ordeal but was in a good mental state, Le Bret said.

France now has seven hostages being held abroad, including a priest, four journalists in Syria and two people taken in Mali.

Collomp was kidnapped by about 30 armed men who attacked the residence of French firm Vergnet, the company for which he is working, in the state of Katsina on the border with Niger.

The kidnapping, which left two bodyguards and a bystander dead, was claimed by Nigerian radical Islamist group Ansaru, which has links to extremist group Boko Haram.