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French engineer released in Baghdad

Bernard Planche, 52, was released near a checkpoint set up by US and Iraqi security forces to the west of the Iraqi capital.

world Updated: Jan 08, 2006 15:47 IST

A French engineer kidnapped by insurgents five weeks ago in Baghdad has been freed, French and Iraqi officials said on Sunday.

Bernard Planche, 52, was released near a checkpoint set up by US and Iraqi security forces to the west of the Iraqi capital, an Iraqi security source said.

"The kidnappers were in a car with the hostage, they fled when they saw the soldiers," the source added.

In Paris, French President Jacques Chirac's office confirmed his release, saying he was "very pleased at this fortunate conclusion."

Planche was kidnapped by an Iraqi rebel group on December 5 from his home in an upmarket Baghdad neighborhood.

The group, calling itself the Battalion of the Lookout for Iraq, had threatened to kill him if France did not "end its illegitimate presence in Iraq" in a video broadcast by Al-Arabiya television.

On December 28, the Dubai-based channel showed a black-and-white video bearing the group's logo and a man with a moustache on his knees with two gunmen behind him.

Two days later, the man's family appealed for his release on Al-Arabiya, saying he was in Iraq only to help the people of the war-torn country.