YAOUNDE, Cameroon — A German man who was kidnapped by the Boko Haram Islamic extremist group in July and freed said Wednesday he never knew if he would survive the ordeal.
Looking haggard and with a long blond-gray beard and wearing a blue-and-white Adidas track jacket, Robert Nitsch Eberhard was flown to Yaounde, Cameroon's capital, from Maroua in northern Cameroon in a military flight. He had been kidnapped in neighboring Nigeria, where Boko Haram has been waging a ruthless insurgency.
"Until the last minute I did not know if I will survive or I will not survive," he told reporters at Yaounde's international airport. "It was for me a big problem because there was darkness, totally dark and then you see nobody around you and this is a big problem to say if I will survive or I will not survive."
The circumstances of how he was freed were not immediately divulged. He was a teacher in northeastern Nigeria where he was kidnapped by suspected Boko Haram fighters.
The German said he was kept in a dirty room during his entire stay in captivity and added that he had been saved from the mouth of a lion. He said he had lost 50 kilograms (110 pounds) in captivity.
"You had a long time where nobody talks with you. Nobody," he said, wearing a yellow business shirt, open at the collar, under the jacket.
Cameroonian officials had identified the freed hostage as Nitsch Eberhard Robert, but he wrote his name down for an Associated Press reporter as Robert Nitsch Eberhard.
The German ambassador to Cameroon, Klaus-Ludwig Keferstein, thanked the Cameroon government for securing his release.
"We are very grateful to Cameroon government that we could find a solution to the problem of this hostage taking," he said, while declining to give details of the case."
German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said the man was healthy enough to be transported and that a crisis team had been working on the case for months. He also thanked the Cameroon government for its "very good and trusting" cooperation during the ordeal.