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Last French hostage freed by Al-Qaeda’s north African arm

Serge Lazarevic was greeted by French President Francois Hollande

Published: Updated:

France's last remaining hostage, Serge Lazarevic, arrived home Wednesday after three years at the hands of Islamist militants, where he was to be greeted by French President Francois Hollande.

A plane carrying the 51-year-old, who was snatched by armed men in Mali on November 24, 2011, touched down at a military base near Paris.

The release of 50-year-old Serge Lazarevic, who was kidnapped by Al-Qaeda's North African wing AQIM in northern Mali in late 2011, was a boost for Hollande, though questions remained over how he was freed.

A beaming Lazarevic met his family and the president on the tarmac of Villacoublay airport near Paris after getting off a flight from Niger.

"Being a hostage is a bit difficult, it's not easy. But life is beautiful, to be freed again," Lazarevic told a waiting group
of TV cameras and reporters. "I forgot what freedom is, don't ever forget."

"Be careful because freedom is the most priceless thing."

Lazarevic was released on Tuesday and Hollande has denied that France any pays ransom.

Both Niger and Mali were involved in the release, said officials, but authorities provided no details of the liberation.