Mali confirms al Qaeda militants swapped for French hostage

Four militants belonging to al Qaeda’s North African branch were handed over in exchange for the release of French hostage Serge Lazarevic (pictured), Malian Justice Minister Mohamed Ali Bathily confirmed to FRANCE 24 Friday.

Lazarevic was snatched by armed men in Mali on November 24, 2011, while on a business trip with fellow Frenchman Philippe Verdon in a kidnapping claimed by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Verdon, who suffered from an ulcer and tachycardia – an abnormally fast heartbeat – was found shot dead last year, and those close to his family suggested he had been executed because he was weak.

Before his release on Tuesday, Lazarevic was the last of more than a dozen French citizens taken captive in recent years.