Four French journalists who were captured in Syria 10 months ago were released on the Turkish border and are on their way home. The men are reportedly in good health but it’s unclear how the release came about and if anybody paid a ransom, reports the Associated Press. French President Francois Hollande said in a statement that he felt "immense relief" at the release despite the "very trying conditions" of their abduction. “We thank the Turkish authorities because they helped us a great deal,” one of the freed journalists, Didier François, a senior reporter for Europe 1, told Turkish television in a brief interview, according to the New York Times. He was held alongside his Europe 1 colleague Edouard Elias, Nicolas Hénin, a freelance writer who regularly contributed to French weekly Le Point, and Pierre Torres, a freelance photographer. The four men had been captured by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS) in two incidents in June, notes the Telegraph.
Hénin talked to France 24 and said that their release “was a real surprise” but they apparently knew something was up when their captors gave them better food than usual the night before they were set free. “Usually we were not very well fed. [On Friday evening] our jailers brought us a better meal. And then they asked us if we wanted some more, which had never happened before! That’s when we thought ‘something is happening.’” Reporters Without Borders has described Syria as “the world’s most dangerous country for journalists.” The Committee to Protect Journalists says 61 journalists were kidnapped in Syria last year.
All four of the men had beards when they were released, which they quickly shaved off as can be seen in this picture posted on Twitter by France24 Istanbul correspondent Fatma Kizilboga: