Although officially Paris has never paid money to kidnappers, it is widely acknowledged that the French government has in the past paid ransom money.
But the wife of hostage Daniel Larribe, who is being held in Mali, told Le Monde newspaper that at a meeting with families at the Elysées on 13 January, Hollande told them that it would be “unthinkable” to pay money to the hostage-takers, now that France was at war in Mali.
“My family and I consider that his handling of the hostage issue is mistaken, I am appalled,” Françoise Larribe told the newspaper.
However, some analysts point out that France had already begun to harden its position with regard to paying ransoms under Nicolas Sarkozy, amid fears that a perceived willingness by Paris to pay ransoms encouraged the capture of more French citizens.
Meanwhile Jean-Pierre Verdun, father of Philippe Verdon, who is also being held in Mali, told French radio station RTL on Tuesday “We are told nothing. On the French side we are told nothing, the jihadists don’t talk either, we are totally in the dark and it is insufferable”
René Robert, grandfather of Pierre Legrand, a hostage in Mali, said on Tuesday that though he understood the need for silence, “If François Hollande is confronted with the ultimate choice, to put his thumbs up or thumbs down, I hope he will not put his thumbs down because you cannot condemn innocents so coldly”.
“I’m holding on to the words uttered by President Hollande when he declared that he was not in a position to negotiate: ‘we are using every means to try to get the hostages back safely’”.
There are fifteen French people being held hostage in the world, all of them in Africa.