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Colombian nun kidnapped by jihadists in Mali freed

October 10, 2021

The liberation of the nun, captured on the border with Burkina Faso nearly five years ago, has been welcomed by the Colombian government. Mali's president saluted her "bravery" after the ordeal.

This grab from a video provided by the SITE Intelligence Group taken on July 02, 2017 shows Colombian nun Gloria Cecilia Narvaez Argoti, one of the six hostages held by al-Qaida's Mali branch
The Malian authorities did not say whether they paid a ransom for the nun's releaseImage: SITE Intelligence Group/AFP

A Colombian nun kidnapped by al-Qaida jihadists in 2017 near Mali's border with Burkina Faso was freed Saturday, the Malian presidential office said.

Gloria Cecilia Narvaez was kidnapped by the Islamist Macina Liberation Front in February 2017 while working as a missionary.

What do we know of her release?

Mali interim President Assimi Goita announced the liberation on Twitter where he thanked the security forces for their participation in the operation.

"The presidency of Mali salutes the courage and bravery of the nun. This liberation is the crowning achievement of four years and eight months of combined efforts by several intelligence services," Goita said.

Photos on his Twitter post show Narvaez dressed in a yellow robe and headscarf smiling as she meets the president.

Mali: no rest for a country in crisis

"I thank the Malian authorities, the president, for all the efforts made so that I am free," Narvaez said on the country's national television.

She reported staying healthy while in captivity for nearly five years.

The Malian authorities did not say whether they paid a ransom for the nun's release.

What was the reaction in Colombia?

Colombian Foreign Minister and Vice President Marta Lucia Ramirez tweeted her joy at the release of Narvaez.

"We are enormously happy and thankful for this result," Ramirez said.

She acknowledged the role of the French government, personally mentioning Prime Minister Jean Castex and Defense Minister Florence Parly.

French troops helped to secure Mali from jihadist forces in 2013 after Islamists took some cities in the north of the country.

French President Emmanuel Macron (up) flies over Gao inside a military helicopter during a visit to France's Barkhane counter-terrorism operation in Africa's Sahel region, northern Mali,
French forces have helped combat never-ending waves of insurgents in MaliImage: Christophe Petit Tesson/Pool/abaca/picture alliance

The al-Qaida-linked group has found kidnapping to be a lucrative way to keep up their fight against national armies, UN peacekeepers and French forces in West Africa's Sahel region. They regularly kill Malian troops in roadside bombings.

The jihadists are still holding a US clergyman and a French journalist in the western African region.

jc/sri (AP, AFP)