A Swedish man kidnapped by Islamic militants in northern Mali nearly six years ago has been released from captivity, the Swedish government confirmed on Monday.
There was no immediate word on the fate of a second hostage, from South Africa, who was also seized in Timbuktu.
There was no immediate word on Stephen McGown, the South African hostage. A third foreigner, Dutchman Sjaak Rijke, had been freed in 2015 by French special forces while the fourth, a German, was shot dead by Al Qaeda when he did not cooperate during the hostage taking.
Swedish Foreign Affairs minister Margot Wallstrom announced the release of Johan Gustafsson without giving details on what had finally led to his freedom. She did not say if a ransom had been paid in exchange for his freedom.
"I would like to urge everyone to show consideration for Johan and his family and to respect their wishes concerning when and whether they will choose to make a statement," Wallstrom said.The kidnapping took place in November 2011 as Islamic extremism was gaining a foothold in northern Mali.
Not long after, jihadist groups seized control of the major towns including Timbuktu and began enforcing their harsh interpretation of Shariah law.
The extremists were later forced from their strongholds in early 2013 by a French-led military operation but continue to launch attacks on peacekeepers and Malian forces.
French hostages being held in the region were released through a series of operations but Gustafsson and McGown had languished in captivity. – News24