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Last hostage back safely in France

Serge Lazarevic landed back in Paris this morning, after three years in captivity

FRANCE'S last remaining hostage has returned home safely after three years being held captive by Islamist militants.

Serge Lazarevic landed at Villacoublay air base on the outskirts of Paris this morning, where he was greeted by President Hollande.

He was taken hostage in Mali in November 2011 along with fellow Frenchman Philippe Verdon, who was killed by militants from Al-Qeada in the Islamic Maghreb last year in response to France's military intervention in Mali.

After greeting his family and the relatives of his friend and fellow hostage, Mr Lazarevic publicly thanked "everyone who helped with my liberation".

He added: "It's a peculiar experience, being held hostage. I'd forgotten what freedom was like. When you're taken, mistreated and on the brink of death, you stop thinking about life."

He said he was in good health, despite losing about 20kg during his detention.

The French press this morning is asking questions about the conditions under which he was freed.

There are some reports that four Islamist militants held in Mali were freed in return. The French government insists it does not pay ransoms for hostages.

President Hollande thanked the authorities in Niger and Mali, who had "worked towards this happy outcome".

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