Paris: A French engineer abducted by Islamist militants in Nigeria has managed to escape after nearly a year in captivity, officials said today, in the latest dramatic turn for French hostages abroad.
President Francois Hollande announced that Francis Collomp, 63, was free after being taken by Islamist militants on December 19, 2012, in the state of Katsina in northern Nigeria.
Collomp was handed over to French embassy officials and was on his way to Abuja, said Femi Adenaike Adeleye, the police commissioner in the northern city of Kaduna.
Adeleye said Collomp had escaped in the northern city of Zaria yesterday while his captors had been praying.
"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, from where he was brought to Kaduna, the regional capital.
Adeleye said Collomp had been held in the city of Kano after his abduction and about two months ago was brought to Zaria.
A French source close to the case said Collomp had escaped during a Nigerian army operation against extremist militants, but Adeleye did not confirm this.
News of his freedom came amid an emotional roller-coaster in France in the last three weeks over foreign hostages.
The nation rejoiced in late October when four ex-hostages flew home from Niger after more than three years in captivity, but within less than a week was in mourning for two radio journalists abducted and killed by extremist rebels in Mali.
Then last week a Roman Catholic priest, 42-year-old Georges Vandenbeusch, was kidnapped in northern Cameroon and reportedly taken by Islamist militants to Nigeria.