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Al-Qaeda releases Swede held hostage for six years in Mali, says foreign ministry

Stockholm: A Swede held hostage by Al-Qaeda in Mali since 2011 has been freed to head home, and is doing well although he is "overwhelmed" by his release, Sweden's foreign ministry said Monday.

 Al-Qaeda releases Swede held hostage for six years in Mali, says foreign ministry

Representational image of Al-Qaeda forces. AFP

"It is with great pleasure that I can announce that Johan Gustafsson has been released and can return to Sweden," Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said in a statement, giving no details about how his release was secured.

Gustafsson, 42, was abducted in Timbuktu, northern Mali, in November 2011 together with South African national Stephen McGowan and Dutchman Sjaak Rijke.

Rijke was freed in April 2015 by French special forces. The Swedish foreign ministry provided no details about McGowan's fate.

"I've already spoken with Johan and he is doing well and is overwhelmed by everything going on," Wallstrom told Swedish Radio.

Swedish daily Expressen reported meanwhile that Gustafsson was already on a plane bound for Sweden.

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.

AQIM 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.

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Updated Date: Jun 26, 2017 20:41:46 IST

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