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French citizen Thierry Frezier who was abducted south of Abeche, speaks during a news conference after his release at Khartoum airport, in Khartoum, Sudan May 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah.(reuters_tickers)
KHARTOUM (Reuters) - A Frenchman who was kidnapped in Chad in March and taken to the Darfur area of Sudan has been rescued in a raid organised by France, Chad and Sudan and was handed over to French authorities on Sunday, Sudanese officials said.
They said the kidnappers had demanded an undisclosed ransom for Thierry Frezier, an employee of a French mining company operating in Chad.
He was abducted south of Abeche, a mining area about 800 km (500 miles) east of Chad's capital, N'Djamena, and 150 km from the border with Sudan.
Frezier arrived on Sunday morning in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, where he was handed over to French embassy officials at the airport.
"I was treated well during my kidnapping ... I thank the Sudanese civil and military forces for my rescue operation," Frezier said.
The French president's office confirmed that he had been freed, without giving details of the rescue.
"The President of the Republic has learned with great satisfaction about the release of our compatriot who was abducted in eastern Chad and then taken by his captors to Sudan," it said in a statement.
Sudan has been working with Chadian and French authorities for weeks to secure Frezier's release.
Mohamed Tabiedy, a spokesman for the Sudanese security and intelligence service, said the Frenchman had been freed in a rescue mission carried out in coordination with Chad and French intelligence. Five kidnappers were arrested in the raid and would be tried, he said, adding that no one was hurt.
Sudanese Foreign Ministry official Khalid Attaras said no ransom was paid.
Sudanese officials said Frezier had not been abducted by any of the known rebel movements that are battling Sudan's government but by an armed group in the border area.
Kidnappings are rare in Chad, a former French colony in West Africa, but the remote eastern border area has seen decades of back-and-forth movement by armed groups, including rebels fighting the Sudanese government.
Before this case, the last French national kidnapped in Chad was an aid worker seized in the eastern frontier area in 2009. He was released nearly three months later in Darfur.
About 1,000 French troops are stationed in Chad, the site of the headquarters of France's 4,000-strong regional anti-militant operation, known as Barkhane.
(Reporting by Ali Mirghani in Khartoum and Bate Felix in Paris, Writing by Lin Noueihed; Editing by Angus MacSwan)