They had been kidnapped in Baghdad on January 20, 2020. While France has just withdrawn its troops from Iraq, three French and one Iraqi, members of the French NGO SOS Chrétiens d’Orient, have been released, announced the Elysée in the evening of Thursday March 26. “France has made every effort to achieve this outcome. The President of the Republic expresses his gratitude to the Iraqi authorities for their cooperation, ”said a brief statement from the French presidency, without further details.
SOS Christians of the Orient said last week that there was no news of its four missing members, without message or claim. The four men, the French Antoine Brochon, Julien Dittmar, Alexandre Goodarzy and the Iraqi Tariq Mattoka, had “disappeared around the French embassy”, in the city center of the capital, according to the NGO. Baghdad, when kidnapped, has been plagued by protests for several months, some against the government and influence of Iran, and others against the presence of American troops in Iraq after the death of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, killed in Badgad in early January in an American drone attack.
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“SOS Chrétiens d’Orient welcomes and is delighted with the release of its 4 collaborators” and “warmly thanks the French authorities for their work, as well as the Iraqi authorities,” the NGO reacted on Twitter on Thursday. She also thanks “her support for the incredible movement of prayer and solidarity that was formed at the announcement of these disappearances”.
The association warmly thanks the French authorities for their work, as well as the Iraqi authorities. pic.twitter.com/dgOi6Us1rN
– SOS Christians of the East (@SOSCdOrient) March 26, 2020
French troops withdraw to Iraq
The humanitarian association presents itself as helping Christians in the East, victims of persecution in the region, in particular under the influence of the self-proclaimed caliphate of the organization Islamic State (IS). Its officials, anchored to the right, have sometimes been accused of complacency with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
France also announced on Wednesday March 25 that it would withdraw its troops from Iraq on Thursday, where they were participating in the training of Iraqi security forces, as part of the international anti-Jihadist coalition led by Washington. The repatriation of some 200 French soldiers from Operation Chammal is motivated “in particular” by the coronavirus pandemic, which thus hampers one of its external operations, explained the French general staff. The US military, which represents the vast majority of the foreign forces deployed in Iraq, announced for its part last weekend a temporary reduction in the coalition’s wing.
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