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French journalist freed in iraq after 5 months

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French Journalist Freed in Iraq After Five Months (Update2)

June 12 (Bloomberg) -- Florence Aubenas, a journalist for French daily Liberation, and her interpreter Hussein Hanoun al- Saadi were freed more than five months after being kidnapped in Iraq.

The two ``have been freed and are in good health,'' French President Jacques Chirac said in a televised speech on LCI. ``Florence is currently on a plane, which is taking her toward France. They're finally to rejoin their families and loved ones.''

The 44-year-old reporter, who was released yesterday afternoon, left Baghdad early today and is expected to arrive at a military airport near Paris around 9 p.m., accompanied by French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, LCI said.

Criminals seeking ransom have been blamed for some of the abductions of foreigners in Iraq since the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003. Terrorists linked to al-Qaeda who want to disrupt reconstruction and force out U.S.-led troops have taken responsibility for others.

Some 195 non-Iraqis have been seized in Iraq since May 2003, with 33 killed, 85 released, three escaped and two rescued, the Washington-based Brookings Institution said on its Web site, citing a tally through April 17.


Aubenas and al-Saadi were seized on Jan. 5 in Baghdad, two weeks after French journalists Georges Malbrunot and Christian Chesnot were freed after being held hostage for four months in Iraq.

``She was thinner but surprisingly vivacious and smiling,'' Bernard Bajolet, France's ambassador to Iraq, told Agence France- Presse. ``She got through quite an ordeal with exceptional courage.''

In 2004, 19 journalists were killed in Iraq, according to Reporters Without Borders.

For a while, Aubenas and al-Saadi were held in the same place as three Romanian journalists and their guide who were released May 22, Antoine de Gaudemar, managing editor at Liberation, told LCI.

``We've known for a while that the Romanian hostages shared some time the same location with Florence,'' de Gaudemar told LCI. ``Florence was apparently well treated and didn't suffer any abuse.''

Al-Saadi rejoined his family today in Baghdad, accompanied by an armed guard.

Last Updated: June 12, 2005 07:13 EDT

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