Kidnapped French aid worker freed in C. African Republic

BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) — A French aid worker kidnapped in Central African Republic and her co-worker have been released, those involved in the negotiations said Friday.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that Claudia Priest, 67, had been released and thanked Central African Republic authorities and especially the archbishop of the country’s capital for their help.

Priest, who was working for Catholic medical organization CODIS, was kidnapped along with a local co-worker when fighters seized their vehicle full of medicine and medical kits, according to their driver.

Father Irenee Poutabale confirmed that Priest’s colleague had also been released.

The spate of rare kidnappings by Christian fighters comes after the arrest of their commander, Rodrigue Ngaibona.

Central African Republic was hit by unprecedented sectarian violence about a year ago when a Christian militia was formed to combat a Muslim rebel coalition that had taken control of the country.

Yet even amid violence that has left more than 5,000 people dead, attacks have rarely been directed at foreigners, except for those with the French military and the other African armies taking part in the U.N. peacekeeping mission.

Fabius, in a statement, called the release “an immense relief for all those who worked toward this happy outcome.” He said the archbishop “actively contributed” to the release.

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Associated Press writer Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.

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