Kidnapped Mali politician, French aid worker and two Italians freed

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Kidnapped Malian politician Soumaila Cisse, French aid worker Sophie Petronin and two Italians were freed on Thursday, Mali's presidency said, after lengthy periods in the hands of Islamist insurgents. Their release follows a tense few days as reports the Malian authorities had freed scores of suspected militants over the weekend fuelled expectations of an imminent prisoner swap. It was unclear whether or not a ransom was paid

Reuters October 09, 2020 03:10:37 IST
Kidnapped Mali politician, French aid worker and two Italians freed

Kidnapped Mali politician French aid worker and two Italians freed

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Kidnapped Malian politician Soumaila Cisse, French aid worker Sophie Petronin and two Italians were freed on Thursday, Mali's presidency said, after lengthy periods in the hands of Islamist insurgents.

Their release follows a tense few days as reports the Malian authorities had freed scores of suspected militants over the weekend fuelled expectations of an imminent prisoner swap. It was unclear whether or not a ransom was paid.

"The ex-hostages are on their way to Bamako," Mali's presidency said on Twitter.

It added in a statement that the release was obtained thanks to efforts by Mali security services, and international partners, but gave no further details.

Malian and French authorities had neither confirmed nor denied that talks about their potential release were ongoing.

Cisse, a popular politician who served as finance minister in the 1990s, was kidnapped by gunmen while campaigning in the northern region of Timbuktu in March.

Petronin, who ran a charity for malnourished and orphaned children, was abducted near the northern city of Gao in late 2016.

"Sophie Pétronin is free. Held hostage for nearly 4 years in Mali, her release is a great relief," said French President Emmanuel Macron on Twitter.

The two Italian hostages are Pierluigi Maccalli, a priest and missionary who was taken in September 2018 in Niger, close to the Burkina Faso border, and Nicola Chiacchio, who is thought to have been a tourist when he was captured. The two appeared on a video in April 2020.

The release is a significant victory for Mali's interim leadership who are overseeing an 18-month transition back to civilian rule after the Aug. 18 overthrow of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

"The transitional authorities express their warm thanks to all the national and foreign actors who, from near or far, have contributed to this happy outcome," said Ousmane Issoufi Maiga, the head of the crisis unit in Mali's presidency.

(Reporting by Paul Lorgerie, Tiemoko Diallo, Souleymane Ag Anara and Cheick Diouara; Writing by Hereward Holland; Editing by Chris Reese and Grant McCool)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.