PARIS (AFP) – Three members of a family of seven held hostage for two months by Islamists in West Africa recounted their ordeal on Saturday, saying the four children helped them through the suffering.
In a prime-time interview on French television, Albane Moulin-Fournier admitted there had been “some very hard moments, physically” during their captivity at the hands of Islamist militants.
Her husband Tanguy said they were held in two different locations and began to hope they might be released when their captors started giving them fruit and eggs in a bid to fatten them up before freeing them.
The “rhythm and routine” needed by the four boys, aged between five and 12, helped the whole family through the ordeal, added Tanguy’s brother Cyril.
“There were activities. We folded up the sheets in the morning. We went to prepare breakfast … that was important to keep up a daily routine,” said Cyril Moulin-Fournier.
The children “held up very well, did not cry, did not have nightmares,” said the mother. “They played with whatever they could find, bits of wood, empty sardine tins,” added Albane.
Tanguy said they were held without shade in unbearable heat and had to “practically negotiate” supplies of water from their captors.
The family was kidnapped in Cameroon on February 19 while visiting a national park in the north of the country.
They were then taken to neighbouring Nigeria and held by Boko Haram, an Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist group blamed for a string of deadly attacks since 2009 in an insurgency in northern Nigeria.
But in a surprise development on Thursday, they were handed over to authorities in Cameroon, thinner and exhausted but otherwise in good health.
They arrived back in Paris early on Saturday morning, to be greeted by French President Francois Hollande, who declared: “Today, life has won.”
Despite the kidnapping, Tanguy, who had been in Cameroon since 2011 since being posted there by his GDF Suez employer, vowed to return.
“It’s a superb country. We were there for two years and we have friends there and Cameroonian brothers.”