Four employees working with a French Christian charity who were kidnapped in Iraq in January have been released, France’s presidency said on Thursday.
The release of the four men with SOS Chretiens d’Orient (Christians of the Middle East) comes just a day after France said it would withdraw its troops from Iraq due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The presidential Elysee Palace in Paris said that France had made “every effort to reach this outcome.”
“The president expresses his gratitude to the Iraqi authorities for their cooperation,” the presidency said in a statement without adding details.
SOS Chretiens d’Orient said on Twitter it welcomed the release of its four employees — three French nationals and one Iraqi.
The charity also said it “warmly thanked the French authorities for their work, as well as the Iraqi authorities.”
Last week, SOS Chretiens d’Orient said that there had been no news of its four employees and they had received no ransom demand nor had any group claimed responsibility for their abduction.
Antoine Brochon, Julien Dittmar, Alexandre Goodarzy and Tariq Mattoka were kidnapped in Baghdad on Jan. 20, as the Iraqi capital was gripped by demonstrations.
The months of protests were initially against the government, but the US’ military presence in Iraq became a hot-button issue after a US drone strike on Jan. 3 killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad.
SOS Chretiens d’Orient has been working with persecuted Christians in Iraq since 2014 when Islamic State fighters overran the province of Mosul, displacing tens of thousands of minority Christians and Yazidis.
The organization, which is fiercely critical of Islam, portraying it as a threat to Christianity in the Middle East, has drawn criticism in the past for sending young French volunteers to Syria and Iraq for months at a time.
France on Wednesday said it would withdraw its 200 military personnel working in Iraq, who are mostly trainers to local armed forces, blaming complications arising from the COVID-19 crisis.
Iraq’s military halted all training early this month to minimize the risk of the illness spreading among its forces, including from the US-led coalition helping fight remnants of Islamic State.
The US, whose military represents the vast majority of foreign troops in Iraq, has announced the coalition would be temporarily reducing its forces.
ACADEMIC FREEDOM: One professor told her students to submit anonymized papers and not to record any online classes. Some US schools have announced similar steps Students at Oxford University specializing in the study of China are being asked to submit some papers anonymously to protect them from the possibility of retribution under the sweeping new security law introduced three months ago in Hong Kong. The anonymity ruling is to be applied in classes, and group tutorials are to be replaced by one-to-ones. Students are also to be warned that it will be viewed as a disciplinary offence if they tape classes or share them with outside groups. The Hong Kong National Security Law was imposed on June 30 by Beijing after more than a year of pro-democracy
Japan’s government yesterday urged people to seek help if they were struggling to cope, following Sunday’s death of the popular actress and Miss Sherlock star Yuko Takeuchi, 40. News of her death shocked the nation and follows other recent cases of Japanese celebrities taking their lives, with figures showing a recent rise in suicides. Takeuchi was a household name in Japan and had given birth to her second child in January. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato did not mention a particular case, but said that some people were struggling to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic. “There has been an uptick in the number
China on Thursday lashed out at the US at a high-level UN meeting over its criticism on the COVID-19 pandemic, with its envoy declaring, “Enough is enough.” Two days after US President Donald Trump used his annual address to the General Assembly to attack China’s record, US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft, also took an outraged tone — after which her Chinese counterpart showed palpable anger. “I must say, enough is enough. You have created enough troubles for the world already,” Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun (張軍) told a Security Council meeting on global governance attended through videoconference
PAPAL POLITICS? The controversial Australian prelate’s return to Rome comes just days after the pope fired one of his most powerful opponents over a financial scandal Cardinal George Pell, Pope Francis’ former finance minister, is to soon return to the Vatican during an extraordinary economic scandal for the first time since he was cleared of child abuse allegations in Australia five months ago, a church agency said yesterday. Pell is to fly back to Rome today, CathNews, an information agency of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference said, citing “sources close to” Pell. Pell’s return follows Francis last week firing one of the cardinal’s most powerful opponents, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, over a financial scandal. Pell was regarded as the third-highest-ranking Vatican official and was attempting to wrestle the Holy See’s