French President Francois Hollande  hostage Serge Lazarevic Villacoublay airport Paris.
French President Francois Hollande and former hostage Serge Lazarevic hug each at the Villacoublay military airport, near Paris. Reuters

A Malian minister has confirmed that four jihadists were exchanged for the released of French hostage Serge Lazarevic, according to AFP news agency.

It is believed that the jihadists are members of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim).

It was reported earlier this week that at least two jihadists, who were jailed for their part in the kidnap of Lazarevic, were released from their cells and flown to Niger.

The 50-year-old was snatched from a hotel in Hombori, north-eastern Mali, with his business associate Philippe Verdon in November 2011 who was then shot dead by Aqim in March 2012.

Following his release, French President Francois Hollande thanked the presidents of Niger and Mali for helping in the negotiations.

After returning to France, Lazarevic said: "When you're on the verge of death, you think more about life."

Lazarevic was the last French hostage in North and West Africa, with 14 French nationals being held at one point.