Swedish government announces release of hostage in Mali

27 June, 2017, 02:58 | Author: Kristopher Anderson
  • Swede held hostage by al Qaeda since 2011 freed

"This collaboration has now resulted in Johan being able to return home", she said.

"The Swedish policy is not to pay ransom in connection with kidnappings", Wallstrom said, referring to her government's general guideline, but refused to take questions on Gustafsson's case.

Wallström told local media she has talked to Gustafsson, who is "in good spirits and overwhelmed by everything that is happening".

Wallstrom refused to provide details about how Sweden secured Gustafsson's release, saying only that it occurred "a couple of days ago" and was the result of "several years of efforts" by police, politicians, diplomats and Swedish and worldwide authorities.

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Gustafsson, from Värnamo in southern Sweden, was kidnapped in Timbuktu, northern Mali, in November 2011 together with South African Stephen McGowan and Dutchman Sjaak Rijke.

Al-Qaeda militants kidnapped McGowan, Gustafsson and a friend while they were sitting in a restaurant in Timbuktu in 2011.

The trio were kidnapped by a group of armed men on the terrace of their hotel along with several other Westerners, including Rijke's wife who managed to escape. A third foreign hostage was freed in 2015 by French special forces. It was one of several Islamist groups to take control of northern Mali in in 2012, before being pushed back from their strongholds by French military forces the following year. "I don't think Stephen has been released", said Imtiaz Sooliman, head of Gift of the Givers. "We have reached a dead end", Gift of the Givers said in a May 17 statement.

He is, however, the last of the three to be freed after negotiations between the Swedish government and AQIM. Over the years, AQIM had released several videos of Gustafsson and McGowan, but there were no clear demands from the kidnappers. No group has claimed responsibility for her disappearance.

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