SHARE
COPY LINK

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.

MILITARY

Sweden to send 160 troops in Mali mission

Sweden's parliament voted on Tuesday in favour of sending up to 160 troops to Mali on July 1 for a maximum of one year in support of a UN peacekeeping mission to the country.

Sweden to send 160 troops in Mali mission

Deputies adopted a proposal from the centre-right government, which said that in “normal circumstances” the Swedish contingent would be around 70.

The Swedish military will also provide materiel to the UN mission.

“Armed extremist groups and criminal groups have since the beginning of 2012 committed extensive acts of cruelty which have caused great human suffering in Mali,” parliament wrote in a statement, saying this justified the UN mission.

Parliament approved a maximum cost of 85 million kronor ($13 million) for the Swedish effort.

The UN force being deployed in Mali, known under the acronym MINUSMA, is to take over security duties from French forces who entered Mali in January to halt an Islamist advance and help the government re-establish its authority over the vast country.

The UN Security Council in April approved the force for Mali, to be made up of 12,600 international troops and police to take over from French and African forces.

Rwandan General Jean-Bosco Kazura has been appointed to command the force.

AFP/The Local/og

Follow The Local on Twitter

SHOW COMMENTS