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TIMBUKTU

Swede reported kidnapped in Mali

A Swedish man is said to be among a group of three people kidnapped in Mali on Friday, according to unconfirmed reports.

So far, the Swedish embassy in Mali is referring all enquiries about the case to the foreign office in Stockholm, while local police are said to be continuing with their investigation into the accident.

Although details are still sketchy, reports in Mali suggest the Swede was among a group of four westerners eating in a restaurant in Timbuktu when they were apprehended by a group of heavily armed men.

During the attack, a German man was shot and killed, according to bystanders.

“We have received reports, but we cannot say anything more about what is confirmed or what we know, ” Ylva Schwinn, vice secretary at the embassy, told news agency TT.

Meanwhile the foreign ministry remains equally tight lipped at this stage.

“Reports have reached us, but in terms of Swedes who have been kidnapped in Sweden or abroad, there is nothing we can say for safety reasons,”, said police spokesman Wolf Gyllander.

In a country where the kidnapping of westerners is not uncommon, this is the second reported incident in the past week. On Thursday, two French nationals were taken in the same area and the French military is involved in the search, according to AFP reports.

With at least nine westerners currently held by kidnappers in Mali, the foreign ministry issued a warning on November 21st, advising Swedes not to travel to the northern regions of the country and specifically Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu.

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MALI

Swede held hostage by al-Qaeda since 2011 freed

Johan Gustafsson, a Swede who was kidnapped in Mali more than five years ago, has been released.

Swede held hostage by al-Qaeda since 2011 freed
A screenshot of a video published in 2015. Photo: YouTube/via TT

“It is with great pleasure that I can announce that Johan Gustafsson has been released and can return to Sweden. Johan's situation has touched many of us and extensive efforts have been made to get him released,” said Foreign Minister Margot Wallström in a statement on Monday.

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

“I have already spoken to Johan and he was in good spirits and overwhelmed by everything that's going on,” Wallström told Swedish radio, saying she would hold a press conference later in the evening.

Aftonbladet reported that Gustafsson, 42, landed at Stockholm's Arlanda Airport on Monday afternoon.

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. May 17th marked his 2000th day in captivity.

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 German who tried to resist the abduction was killed.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the kidnappings. It was among several jihadist groups that took control of Mali's north in 2012 before being ousted by a French-led military operation launched in January 2013.

Rijke was freed in April 2015 by French special forces. The Swedish foreign ministry did not comment on McGowan's fate.