Swedish government announces release of hostage in Mali

Mali attack

Johan Gustafsson returned home and was reunited with his family, Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom told reporters late on Monday as she showed a picture of the ex-captive surrounded by his relatives.

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is known for its kidnapping of Westerners, as the group aims to eliminate all Western influence in North Africa.

"We have tried contacting the intermediary in Mali about Stephen's case, we couldn't get through to him, he just said "I can hear you but the network is not good, I'll try calling you later".

The Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the question of a ransom.

Sweden's former Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said that Mr Gustafsson's kidnapping weighed heavily on his mind during his time in the role, which ended in 2014.

She said his release was the result of several agencies working together, including the foreign ministry, the police and Swedish and foreign authorities.

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.


Johan Gustafsson, a Swede who was kidnapped in Mali more than five years ago, has been released. While they were forced out of strongholds a year later by a French-led military intervention, jihadists continue to attack Malian and French soldiers and United Nations peacekeepers.

"We have no information..."

In April 2015, French special forces freed Rijke but the fate of McGowan is not clear.

According to Swedish media reports, Gift of the Givers had been negotiating a ransom with the hostage-takers.

"I don't want to talk right now, I can't".

Several other Westerners have been kidnapped in Mali in recent years.

Gloria Cecilia Narvaez Argoti, a Colombian nun, was kidnapped in February of this year in southern Mali by armed men from an unidentified jihadist group, and her whereabouts remain unknown despite several arrests.

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