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Belgian detained in Chad adoption case flies home

Written by: Staff
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N'DJAMENA, Nov 10 (Reuters) A 74-year-old Belgian pilot, detained in Chad over an attempt to fly 103 African children to Europe, flew home today after being released.

Jacques Wilmart was freed by Chadian authorities yesterday He had remained at the French military base in Chad convalescing after suffering heart problems late on Thursday.

Wilmart arrived at the airport in the Chadian capital N'Djamena in an ambulance today, witnesses said.

''When you love Africa, you can never get over it,'' Wilmart told reporters from inside the ambulance, before being helped to the plane. ''I am happy to be going back, but part of my heart will always remain with you (here).'' The Belgian was arrested last month in eastern Chad and charged as an accomplice of six French members of a humanitarian activist group calling itself Zoe's Ark, which Chadian authorities accuse of trying to take the children out of the country illegally.

Wilmart flew the children from the Sudanese border area to the eastern Chadian town of Abeche, from where a Spanish charter flight was due to carry them to France.

The six French citizens still in custody have been charged with fraud and abduction.

The final three members of the Spanish air crew arrived back in Madrid yesterday after Chadian authorities decided they could not be linked to child abduction or trafficking. Four Spanish stewardesses had already been freed.

UN officials say almost all of the infants aged one to 10 came from villages on the Chad-Sudan border and had at least one living parent.

The case has stirred anger in Chad, and other parts of Africa, against what many see as overbearing Western charity organisations.

Scores of people demonstrated in N'Djamena today against Zoe's Ark and France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, who angered Chadian authorities by promising to bring home the remaining French citizens.

REUTERS PJ HT2120

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