French intelligence services played key role in hostage release
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A day after the liberation of four French journalists held in Syria, new details have emerged about the conditions of their release. According to reports, intelligence services had kept track of the journalists since their capture in June, notably through the use of informers.
Not a day went by without the French government being informed of the whereabouts of Didier Francois, Edouard Elias, Nicolas Henin and Pierre Torre.
Weekly meetings took place between intelligence services, the French President and Defense minister to locate the journalists, with help of the US, Britain, Spain and Turkey.
Intelligence services also used a network of informers based in Syria who were in regular contact with the journalists.
Reporter Didier Francois and photographer Edouard Elias, 23, were taken north of the main northern Syrian city of Aleppo on June 6.
Nicolas Henin, a 37-year-old reporter for Le Point magazine, and freelance photographer Pierre Torres, 29, were seized two weeks later, also in the north of the country, at Raqqa.
All men were detained by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the most radical of Syria's jihadist groups.
Laurent Fabius, the Foreign minister confirmed on Monday that some of their captors spoke French.
The recent liberation of two Spanish journalists is said to have speeded up the release of the four journalists, but the Foreign ministry has confirmed that no ransom was involved.
France "does not pay ransoms" for hostages, and said "all is done through negotiation and discussion", Laurent Fabius said.
François Hollande called the hostages' release a '"day of joy" but cautioned that "there are still hostages being held in Syria because they are journalists."