Hopes for French hostages

French Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres said: “I hope that we will, perhaps this night, tomorrow or in the next few hours be able once and for all to turn the page on this tragic event.”

He warned, however, that the Frenchmen were “not in complete security with French forces.”

The journalists, Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, were kidnapped by the self-styled “Islamic Army in Iraq” on August 20 along with their driver.

The group issued a demand that France repeal a controversial law that bans the wearing of the Islamic headscarf in French state schools.

Chesnot and Malbrunot warned in a video shown on Arabic television station Al-Jazeera that they faced death if France failed to revoke the law, but Paris vowed to stand its ground.

Instead, the government embarked on a frantic round of diplomatic lobbying in the Arab world seeking help to secure the release of the journalists. Among those helping the effort have been French Muslim organisations.

French Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin hinted that a handover could take place on Friday.

One of the obstacles to the hostages’ release was believed to be exactly how a handover would be carried out.

The kidnappers feared American soldiers and were also concerned that the journalists might fall into the hands of another group.

The news of the French hostages came as Al-Jazeera said it had a video showing the execution of three Turkish hostages held in Iraq by a group linked to alleged Al-Qaeda operative Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi.

On Wednesday seven hostages from Kenya, India and Egypt were released after their Kuwaiti employer paid more than half a million dollars in ransom. But a day earlier, an Islamic website released a grisly video of 12 Nepalese workers being killed.

Meanwhile, France’s academic year got off to a quiet start with most Muslim girls complying with the controversial ban on wearing headscarves to school.

In keeping with a sense of national solidarity over the hostage crisis, Muslim leaders in France had issued calls for calm and obedience at the start of term.

Posted in 上海性息网