French journalists released in Iraq after four months of captivity

New York, December 21, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the release of two French journalists who had been kidnapped and held hostage in Iraq by an insurgent group for the last four months.

Al-Jazeera reported that insurgents turned over the journalists, Christian Chesnot of Radio France Internationale and Georges Malbrunot of the daily Le Figaro, to the French Embassy in Baghdad today. The French Foreign Ministry confirmed that the men, who disappeared along with their Syrian driver on August 20, were released.

Their driver, Mohamed al-Joundi, was found shackled in a house run by insurgents in Fallujah in November, according to U.S. Marines.

A group calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq, which had detained the journalists, released a statement announcing the journalists’ release, according to Al-Jazeera. The group said they freed the journalists after confirming that they were not spies working for the United States. According to Al-Jazeera, the statement also said that the journalists were freed because of appeals by Islamic groups, “in appreciation of the French government’s stand on the Iraq issue,” and the journalists’ position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“We are relieved and happy that our colleagues are safe after their months-long ordeal,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper.