Swiss hostage held in Mali killed last month

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Swiss hostage held in Mali killed last month

Swiss officials announced the death a month ago of a Swiss woman held hostage in Mali.

Foreign Affairs chief Ignazio Cassis condemned the murder, saying authorities were trying to find his remains.

They learned of the death after French charity worker Sophie Pétronin alerted French authorities.

Ms. Pétronin, 75, was seized in December 2016 and released this week. She was the last French citizen to be taken hostage in the world.

Two Italian nationals and former Malian opposition leader Soumaïla Cissé were also released this week.

The release was part of a prisoner swap for more than 100 jihadists, suspected of being affiliated with al-Qaeda.

The Malian presidency has not disclosed how it was able to free the hostages.

Malian and international armed forces are struggling to contain a jihadist insurgency in the north of the country that first emerged in 2012.

What did Switzerland say?

In a statement, the Swiss Foreign Ministry said the woman - who has not been named - was "apparently killed by kidnappers ... about a month ago".

Information about his assassination "was obtained by the French authorities from the recently released French hostage," said Ms. Pétronin.

He added that officials "are doing everything possible to find out more about the circumstances of the murder and where the remains are", and that the ministry has demanded that the body be returned.

Mr. Cassis added: “It is with great sadness that I learned of the death of our fellow citizen. I condemn this cruel act and express my deepest sympathy to the loved ones. "

What's the latest with the hostage release?

Ms. Pétronin and Mr. Cissé, kidnapped in March while campaigning for the legislative elections, were taken to the capital, Bamako, in a military plane with the two Italians, the Malian presidency announced Thursday.

Soumaïla Cisse (R)COPYRIGHT OF IMAGEREUTERS
legendSoumaïla Cissé (right) was kidnapped at the end of March

The two freed Italian hostages were named Pierluigi Maccalli, a missionary priest kidnapped in 2018, and Nicola Chiacchio, who was reportedly captured while traveling in the area as a tourist.

Earlier Thursday, Malian authorities announced the release of a dozen political and military figures arrested in the coup.

In August Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta was overthrown by a military junta and little is known about what happened to the talks to secure a prisoner swap after the coup.

What is behind the Islamist insurgency in Mali?

A separatist rebellion in the north of the country that began in 2011 created the conditions for jihadist militants to take control of parts of the region.

In 2013, a French-led force helped recapture the territory, but a network of jihadist groups remained active and they were able to carry out attacks and kidnappings.

The Malian government has not been able to regain full control of the north.

France continues to support forces in Mali and other parts of the Sahel region in their fight against the militants.

This article appeared first on: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-54488190

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