Swedish government announces release of hostage in Mali

Claudine Rigal
Juin 26, 2017

Militant group Al Qaeda has freed a Swedish man who was kidnapped from Mali in 2011, media reports said.

Forty-two-year-old Johan Gustafsson is doing well and can return to Sweden, although he is "overwhelmed by everything going on", Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said in a statement after having spoken with him over the phone.

Gustafsson was kidnapped in Timbuktu on November 25, 2011 by Al Qaeda's North Africa branch along with South African Stephen McGown and Dutchman Sjaak Rijke, according to the BBC.

The Swedish foreign ministry provided no details about McGowan's fate.

He, Rijke and McGowan were seized along with several other Westerners by a group of armed men while on the terrace of their hotel.

During the kidnapping, Rijke's wife was able to escape, but a German who fought against the kidnappers was killed.

He is, however, the last of the three to be freed after negotiations between the Swedish government and AQIM. "I don't think Stephen has been released", said Imtiaz Sooliman, head of Gift of the Givers. The extremists were later forced from their strongholds in early 2013 by a French-led military operation but continue to launch attacks on peacekeepers and Malian forces.

His father, Malcolm, told eNCA he was waiting on tenterhooks for any news of what the release of Johan Gustafsson, 42, Gustaffson's release might mean for his son.

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