A group of Christian humanitarian relief workers who were kidnapped over two months ago have finally been freed, French President Emmanuel Macron’s office has confirmed.
The four staff members from French NGO SOS Chretiens d’Orient, or “SOS Christians of the Middle East,” were captured by an anonymous militant group on the 20th January while traveling near the French embassy in Baghdad.
Their release comes just a day after the French government announced it would be withdrawing all troops from Iraq due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement, France’s presidential Elysee Palace insisted it had made “every effort to reach this outcome.”
“The President of the Republic expresses gratitude to the Iraqi authorities for their cooperation,” it added, according to EuroNews.
Last week, Chretiens d’Orient confirmed that no group had claimed responsibility for the abduction and no ransom demand has been made.
In a tweet, SOS Chrétiens d’Orient said it “welcomes the release” of the four workers and “warmly thanks the French authorities for their work, as well as the Iraqi authorities.”
The group added that it was grateful to those who lifted the captives up in prayer throughout their terrifying ordeal: “SOS Chrétiens d’Orient wishes to salute and thank its supporters for the incredible movement of prayers and solidarity that was formed at the announcement of these disappearances,” they said.
The charity has worked with persecuted Christians in Iraq since 2014 , when ISIS overran large swathes of the country and brutalized thousands of Christian minorities and Yazidis.