Two French hostages freed and expected to return home

Her voice choked with emotion, the mother of Georges Malbrunot, one of two French reporters released after four months as hostages in Iraq, said Tuesday that it was "the most beautiful &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Christmas present." Andree Malbrunot, speaking to AFP by telephone, said she had hardly dared believe the news at first, reported initially by the Arabic satellite station &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Al-Jazeera and confirmed a short while later by the French foreign ministry.

"It was our son Bernard who came to tell us, because the Quai d'Orsay had just rung him," she said, referring to the foreign ministry in Paris, reports the Turkish Press.

According to the Xinhua News, the two French journalists who had been held hostage in Iraq since Aug. 20 were freed Tuesday and were expected to return to Paris on Wednesday, the &to=http:// ' target=_blank>French Foreign Ministry announced Tuesday.

"They have been freed. They have been handed over to French authorities. They will return (to Paris) Wednesday," French Foreign Ministry's spokesman, Herve Ladsous, said.

The two journalists, Christian Chesnot, 37, of Radio France Internationale and Georges Malbrunot, 41, of Le Figaro, were kidnapped along with al-Jundi on Aug. 20 south of Baghdad by a group calling itself the "Islamic Army of Iraq." The group demanded that the French government revoke the headscarf ban in public schools. France rejected the demand.

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