World

President urges French to travel carefully after release of hostage held by al-Qaida

  • Diane Lazarevic makes the victory sign after her father Serge Lazarevic arrived at Villacoublay's military airport, west of Paris, while  French President Francois Hollande leaves, right, Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014. France's last hostage was freed Tuesday after being held for more than three years by al-Qaida's North Africa branch — rekindling debate over whether countries should negotiate with extremists or stick to a muscular, uncompromising policy that runs the risk of a beheading or a botched rescue attempt. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

    Diane Lazarevic makes the victory sign after her father Serge Lazarevic arrived at Villacoublay's military airport, west of Paris, while French President Francois Hollande leaves, right, Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014. France's last hostage was freed Tuesday after being held for more than three years by al-Qaida's North Africa branch — rekindling debate over whether countries should negotiate with extremists or stick to a muscular, uncompromising policy that runs the risk of a beheading or a botched rescue attempt. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)  (The Associated Press)

  • France's Serge Lazarevic answers reporters after he arrived at Villacoublay's military airport, west of Paris,  Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014. France's last hostage was freed Tuesday after being held for more than three years by al-Qaida's North Africa branch — rekindling debate over whether countries should negotiate with extremists or stick to a muscular, uncompromising policy that runs the risk of a beheading or a botched rescue attempt. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

    France's Serge Lazarevic answers reporters after he arrived at Villacoublay's military airport, west of Paris, Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014. France's last hostage was freed Tuesday after being held for more than three years by al-Qaida's North Africa branch — rekindling debate over whether countries should negotiate with extremists or stick to a muscular, uncompromising policy that runs the risk of a beheading or a botched rescue attempt. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)  (The Associated Press)

  • French Defense Minister Jean Yves le Drian, right, hugs France's Serge Lazarevic after he arrived at Villacoublay's military airport, west of Paris,  Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014. France's last hostage was freed Tuesday after being held for more than three years by al-Qaida's North Africa branch — rekindling debate over whether countries should negotiate with extremists or stick to a muscular, uncompromising policy that runs the risk of a beheading or a botched rescue attempt. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

    French Defense Minister Jean Yves le Drian, right, hugs France's Serge Lazarevic after he arrived at Villacoublay's military airport, west of Paris, Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014. France's last hostage was freed Tuesday after being held for more than three years by al-Qaida's North Africa branch — rekindling debate over whether countries should negotiate with extremists or stick to a muscular, uncompromising policy that runs the risk of a beheading or a botched rescue attempt. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)  (The Associated Press)

President Francois Hollande has urged French citizens not to travel to areas where they risk being kidnapped, as he greeted a Frenchman returning after being held hostage for three years by al-Qaida's North Africa branch.

Serge Lazarevic arrived in France early Wednesday at the Villacoublay airport outside Paris after being released in what some suspect was a prisoner exchange. His release revived questions about whether governments should negotiate with hostage-takers.

Lazarevic repeatedly thanked Hollande and the government "for having done everything to free me" — but neither he nor Hollande detailed what led to his liberation.

Hollande expressed "extraordinary joy" at Lazarevic's return, and urged his compatriots to "avoid zones at risk."

Lazarevic was kidnapped from a hotel in northeastern Mali in November 2011.