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Swede held hostage by al-Qaeda since 2011 freed

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Swede held hostage by al-Qaeda since 2011 freed
A screenshot of a video published in 2015. Photo: YouTube/via TT
15:37 CEST+02:00
Johan Gustafsson, a Swede who was kidnapped in Mali more than five years ago, has been released.

"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.

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