Four Frenchmen held hostage by al-Qaida militants for three years in the African Sahel and released on Tuesday, have landed in France.

President Francois Hollande and their families are waiting on the tarmac at the military airport outside Paris to greet the men in what is expected to be an emotional homecoming.

Images on French television showed the plane landing on Wednesday morning. The men — Pierre Legrand, Thierry Dol, Marc Feret and Daniel Larribe — spent their first night of freedom in the Niger capital of Niamey.

At the time of their capture, the four were working in Arlit, Niger, where the French nuclear giant Areva operates a uranium mine.

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