Published: Tue, June 27, 2017
Culture | By Henry Herrera

Swede held by Al-Qaeda in Mali since 2011 freed: Swedish govt

Swede held by Al-Qaeda in Mali since 2011 freed: Swedish govt

Gift of the Givers, a South African charity, has worked to secure the release of McGown and Gustafsson since 2015, sending a negotiator into remote parts of Mali and Niger.

Gustafsson, McGowan and Dutchman Sjaak Rijke were abducted by al-Qaeda in Timbuktu, northern Mali, in November 2011.

"I would like to urge everyone to show consideration for Johan and his family and to respect their wishes concerning when and whether they will choose to make a statement", Ms Wallstrom said.

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.

While the details of the Swede's release are not immediately clear, Wallström added that his release was thanks to "extensive efforts" by the Swedish foreign ministry, police and "foreign authorities".

The Swedish foreign ministry did not comment on McGowan's fate.

Rijke's wife managed to escape, but a German who tried to resist the abduction was killed.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which operates in Mali and elsewhere in North Africa, has previously claimed responsibility for the deaths of other captives, including French hostage Phillipe Verdon who was beheaded by the group in 2013.

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AQIM have a reputation of attacking and kidnapping westerners and took control of Mali's north in 2012, killing indiscriminately and destroying ancient artefacts, before being ousted by a French-led military operation.

"We have no information..."

Rijke was freed in 2015 after an operation by French Special Forces.

The news has sparked hope for Gift of the Givers which has been negotiating McGowan's release.

He tweeted on Monday: "Extremely gratifying that Johan Gustafsson is free".

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

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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