PARIS (Reuters) - Four French hostages kidnapped by al Qaeda's north African arm three years ago in Niger have been released, President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday.
Speaking during a state visit to Slovakia, Hollande said they would return as soon as possible to France.
"I want to express all my gratitude to the President of Niger who obtained the release of our compatriots," Hollande said during a news conference in Bratislava.
The four Frenchmen were kidnapped by AQIM in September 2010 working for French nuclear group Areva and Sogea-Sotem, a subsidiary of construction group Vinci in Arlit in Niger.
A French diplomatic source said the hostages were still in the hands of the Niger authorities, but that France's foreign and defense ministers had arrived in Niamey to welcome them.
(Reporting By John Irish; editing by Ingrid Melander)