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Officials are denying that a ransom was paid for the recent release of four French hostages held captive for three years by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb; reports allege that a ransom of $26 million was paid. A negotiator from Niger, former Tuareg rebel Mohamed Akotey, is said to have been instrumental in securing their release. President Hollande said he has not forgotten about seven more French nationals still being held hostage; there are thought to be four in Syria, two in Mali or Niger, and one in Nigeria.