French Christian charity workers kidnapped in Iraq are freed


Jean Der Agopian (left), press relations officer, and Benjamin Blanchard, director general of the French charity SOS Chrétiens d'Orient (Christians of the Middle East), Paris, 24 January 2020

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At the time of the abduction, Jean Der Agopian and Benjamin Blanchard from SOS Chrétiens d’Orient gave a press conference in Paris

Four workers from a French Christian charity who were kidnapped in Iraq in January have been freed, President Emmanuel Macron’s office said.

The three French nationals and an Iraqi were abducted in Baghdad on 20 January at a time of heightened tensions.

Their release came a day after France said it would withdraw its troops from Iraq due to the coronavirus pandemic.

France’s presidential Elysee Palace said it had made “every effort to reach this outcome”.

“The president of the republic welcomes the release of our three nationals Antoine Brochon, Julien Dittmar, Alexandre Goodarzy and Iraqi Tariq Mattoka,” it said in a statement.

“The president expresses his gratitude to the Iraqi authorities for their co-operation,” the statement added.

No details of the release were given.

In a statement last week the charity SOS Chrétiens d’Orient said no group had claimed responsibility for the abduction and no ransom demand had been received.

After news of the men’s release came through it “warmly thanked” French and Iraqi authorities for their efforts.

SOS Chrétiens d’Orient t says it seeks to help Christians in the Middle East and has been working in Iraq since 2014.

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