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Four French journalists released after being held for almost a year in Syria

Four French journalists held in Syria since June of last year have been released. There have also been reports of suicide bombings in Syria.

The four journalists, Nicolas Henin, Pierre Torres, Didier Francois and Edouard Elias were found by Turkish soldiers on Saturday in Sanliurfa province on the border with Syria with their hands bound and eyes blindfolded, according to the Dogan Turkish news agency. Turkish television showed the four men looking unkempt, with long hair and beards.

"I'm very happy to be free," Francois was shown saying. "We just came from Syria."

"We thank the Turkish authorities because they really helped us," he added. "It's very nice to see the sky, to be able to walk and to speak freely."

According to a statement from the office of French President Francois Hollande, all four were "in good health despite the very challenging conditions of their captivity" and would return to France in the coming hours.

They were kidnapped in two separate incidents, allegedly by the rebel group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Syria last June.

At the time of their kidnapping, Henin was working for French magazine Le Point, Torres for the German-French television channel Arte, Francois for Europe 1 radio and Elias as a photographer.

Last month, two Spanish journalists - El Mundo correspondent Javier Espinosa and freelance photographer Ricardo Garcia Vilanova - were released and handed over to the Turkish military. They had been held by an al-Qaeda linked group in Syria since September.

More than 60 journalists have been killed in Syria since the start of the uprising three years ago.

Suicide bombing in central Syria

Also on Saturday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported two rebel car bombs targeted two central areas of the country controlled by government forces.

It said that a suicide bomber in a car blew himself up at a checkpoint near the government-controlled town of Salamiya in central Syria, killing at least six soldiers, and a number of civilians. A Syrian government official confirmed the bombing but said four people were killed and nine were wounded.

There has been fierce fighting between government forces and opposition rebels in the region over the past week with reports of military helicopters dropping barrels filled with explosives - designed to explode on impact - over the town of Kafr Zeita. Earlier this month there were reports from activists and medics in the town that three

barrel-bombs had contained chlorine gas.

The Observatory reported that the second bombing on Saturday took place in the city of Homs, an area dominated by Alawites which is the same sect as

President Bashar al-Assad.

Four people were reported to have died. State television also reported on the bombing but did not give details on the death toll.

jm/pfd (AFP, AP)

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