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HOSTAGE

French executive is kidnapped by mistake

Kidnappers have apologized to the wife of a Frenchman they took hostage in Madagascar this week after admitting they got the wrong man. Despite the mistake the hostage takers are still demanding a €244,000 ransom payment.

French executive is kidnapped by mistake
File photo of a busy street in the Madagascan capital of Antananarivo. Photo: Bernard Gagnon

Kidnappers in Madagascar are demanding €244,000 to free a French hostage, despite admitting they had intended to snatch his colleague, police said Wednesday.

François Raphael, director of construction firm Henri Fraise, was kidnapped from his car by four balaclava-clad men armed with a Kalashnikov and an automatic pistol on Monday evening.

The kidnappers contacted his wife on Tuesday and apologized, saying they had wanted to kidnap the company's chairman who is currently in New York.

But the gang is still seeking a ransom for his release.

"They are now demanding 3.5 million Malagasy francs (€244,000) but no payment has been made yet," said Antananarivo criminal squad commissioner Fidy Andriamandry.

Originally, the men demanded some $395,000 (300,000 euro), but this price was dropped after telephone negotiations with the family.

Raphael, 39, has lived in Madagascar for 10 months. He is married and has three children.

Kidnappings have increased on the Indian Ocean island in recent months, where security has worsened since the ouster of president Marc Ravalomanana in
2009.

This is the first time that a French citizen has been a victim of kidnapping, with Indian nationals and large traders usually targeted.

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HOSTAGE

Two guards freed at French prison as hostage standoff ends

An inmate armed with a homemade weapon took two guards hostage at a high-security prison in northwest France on Tuesday before both were freed unharmed five hours later, authorities said.

Two guards freed at French prison as hostage standoff ends
Police tactical units arrived by helicopter as the hostage situation unfolded. Photo: AFP
Police tactical units arrived by helicopter as the hostage situation unfolded at the Conde-sur-Sarthe Penitentiary Centre, which holds dangerous or radicalised prisoners and those with serious discipline problems.
   
The prisoner, armed with the improvised weapon, had taken the guard and the female trainee hostage during meal time, officials said.
   
The guard was released first and then the female trainee was also freed, both “safe and sound”, before the prisoner surrendered, the national Prison Administration Directorate said.
 
Photo: AFP
   
No further details were immediately available about how the guards were freed or whether it involved a negotiation.
   
A justice ministry source said the inmate has a history of psychiatric problems and hostage taking. He has convictions for robbery, rape and for the murder of a prison cellmate.
   
Elite police units had arrived at the prison by three helicopters, an AFP photographer at the scene said.
   
Security measures were increased in Conde-sur-Sarthe after a prisoner stabbed two guards with a homemade knife in March. After failed negotiations to end a standoff, security units launched an assault, wounding the prisoner.
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