France's Le Pen sparks anger with row on hostages

France's Le Pen sparks anger with row on hostages

PARIS - Agence France-Presse
Frances Le Pen sparks anger with row on hostages

President Hollande (2ndR) stands with the released French hostages, from (L-R), Marc Feret, Pierre Legrand, Daniel Larribe and Thierry Dol. REUTERS photo

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen has sparked a furor by questioning why four Frenchmen held captive by an al-Qaeda offshoot for three years sported beards and wore “strange clothing” after they were freed.

The remarks by the head of the anti-immigration National Front party drew immediate condemnation on social media networks and from politicians, leading Le Pen to backtrack. Le Pen appeared to hint that the four men, who were freed on Oct. 29 in west Africa, may have been radicalized during their captivity. They were kidnapped in Niger in 2010.

Le Pen said the men’s manner and appearance, including their clothing and facial hair, had left her “skeptical.”

“I felt uncomfortable and I think I wasn’t the only one. That is what many French people felt,” she said on Europe 1. The hostages looked gaunt in television images. Three of them sported beards and one had a scarf covering his face.