The mystery of the French hostages
Two French journalists, George Malbrunot and Christian Chesnot, and their Syrian driver, have been held hostage since August 20. Bear in mind that they were taken hostage in Iraq.
According to this France2 report, Didier Julia, a member of the UMP (Chirac’s party) went to Syria to negotiate their release, after several other initiatives that included French Muslim leaders had failed. Laurent Gbagbo, the president of Côte d’Ivoire, had lent his private aircraft to him to fly to Syrian capital. Julia confirmed rumors that he and his collaborator Philippe Brett had been in Damascus. Brett apparently then went to meet with the hostage takers, and, when a highly-publicized press conference (where the hostages were to be released) started, Brett didn’t show up. Instead, Brett phoned saying he was with the hostages but “there was a delay”. No hostages — or Brett — at all.
Julia now confirms that Philippe Brett was within “25 mètres” of Christian Chesnot and George Malbrunot. Not one to miss blaming the Americans for anything, Julia says that “Friday he realized he had failed, which was caused by the US army preventing the convoy transporting Chesnot and Malbrunot from arriving to Syria”.
Now UMP party leaders, including Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, are criticizing Julia’s “private initiative”. One wonders what they’d be saying had the hostages come back. Incidentally, shady character and Julia’s collaborator Philippe Brett hasn’t been seen or heard of since Friday. No word as to where there was any money involved, either.