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Swede Held by Al-Qaida in Mali Freed After 6 Years

  • VOA News

FILE - Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallstrom speaks to reporters.

A Swede held hostage by al-Qaida in Mali since 2011 was released, the Swedish Foreign Ministry announced Monday.

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 abducted in Timbuktu, northern Mali, in November 2011 along with South African national Stephen McGowan and Dutchman Sjaak Rijke, who was freed in April 2015 by French special forces. The fate of McGowan was not known.

Wallstrom did not provide further details about how Gustafsson's release was negotiated.

A Swedish newspaper reported that he was already on a plane bound for Europe.
Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, claimed responsibility for kidnapping the three men, who were taken by a group of armed men from the terrace of their hotel along with Rijke's wife, who managed to escape, and a German who was killed while trying to resist abduction.

AQIM took a number of Western hostages in the north of Mali in 2012 before the French military deployed its forces in early 2013.

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