• Saturday, Feb 04, 2023
  • Last Update : 09:24 am

Kidnapped Mali politician, French aid worker, 2 Italians freed

  • Published at 02:49 am October 9th, 2020
Cisse-Soumaila-Mali-Petronin
Supporters of Malian politician Soumaila Cisse, who was freed from captivity in the hands of Islamist insurgents along with French aid worker Sophie Petronin and two Italians, celebrate with posters of Cisse outside the airport in Bamako, Mali October 8, 2020 Reuters

Sophie Petronin, 75, was abducted near the northern city of Gao in late 2016

Freed Malian politician Soumaila Cisse, French aid worker Sophie Petronin and two Italians arrived in Bamako on Thursday aboard a Malian military transport plane, ending their lengthy captivity in the hands of Islamist insurgents.

They were greeted by jubilant scenes on the tarmac at Bamako airport, with Petronin's son Sebastian Chadaud-Petronin picking her up and crying out: "Mama! Mama! Mama! Mama!" videos and photographs shared on social media showed.

Cisse hugged a relative and later entered a vehicle as supporters chanted his name.

They were driven to the Mali presidency where they met with the leaders of Mali's transitional government.

Cisse, 70, a popular politician who served as finance minister in the 1990s, was kidnapped by gunmen while campaigning for legislative elections in the northern region of Timbuktu in March.

"I must say that I did not suffer any physical or verbal violence," Cisse said on Mali state television, adding that he was mostly in quasi-permanent isolation in the Sahara.

He said he was asked to sit for a proof-of-life video on Sept. 26 and that they were informed on Monday Oct. 5 that they were free but their release was delayed by security measures to protect the lives of the hostages.

The release of the hostages announced earlier by Mali's presidency, follows a tense few days as reports that Malian authorities had freed scores of suspected militants over the weekend fuelled expectations of an imminent prisoner swap.

It was unclear whether or not a ransom was paid.

The Malian government said in a statement that the release was obtained thanks to efforts by Mali security services, and international partners, but gave no further details.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on a message on Twitter that he spoke with Petronin, and that he will welcome her when she returns to France on Friday.

Petronin, 75, who was known as France's last hostage held by jihadist militants, ran a charity for malnourished and orphaned children. She was abducted near the northern city of Gao in late 2016.

The two Italian hostages are Pierluigi Maccalli, a priest and missionary who was taken in September 2018 in Niger, close to the Burkina Faso border, and Nicola Chiacchio, who is thought to have been a tourist when he was captured.

Italy's foreign ministry praised the collaboration between their intelligence and government personnel and Malian authorities.

The release is a significant victory for Mali's interim leadership who are overseeing an 18-month transition back to civilian rule after the August 18 overthrow of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

The West African nation has struggled to find stability since 2012 when jihadist fighters hijacked an insurrection by Tuareg separatists. The militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State have used Mali as a launch pad for attacks in the region.

50
Facebook 50
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail