How a 63-year-old Frenchman held hostage by al-Qaeda for 11 months managed to escape his captors

Francis Collomp, a French engineer who had been held hostage by al-Qaeda militants in northern Nigeria for almost a year tells the story of how he was able to escape his jailers. 

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NBC  Collomp was seized when about 30 gunmen stormed his compound on December 19 in the northern Nigerian town of Rimi, close to the Niger border where al Qaeda’s North African wing, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), operates. 

In September, Collomp — an engineer at French renewable energy firm Vergnet — asked for help in a three-minute video posted on a jihadi website. Ansaru, the militant group that kidnapped him, said soon after his abduction that he had been taken in retaliation for France’s military action against jihadi insurgents in nearby Mali and its ban on wearing the full-face veil.

Britain has put Ansaru on its official “terrorist group” list, saying it is aligned with al Qaeda and was behind the kidnapping of a British national and a Italian who were killed last year during a failed rescue attempt. The group is thought to have loose ties to the better-known Islamist militant sect Boko Haram, which has killed thousands in a four-year-long insurgency focused mostly on Nigerian security forces, religious targets and politicians.

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