Man held hostage by Al-Qaeda since 2011 is released

Man held hostage by Al-Qaeda since 2011 is released

Troops fought against jihadist groups in 2013

Monday, June 26, 2017

A man held hostage by Al-Qaeda since 2011 has been released after several agencies worked to free him.

Johan Gustafsson, a Swede, was kidnapped in Mali, West Africa with South African national Stephen McGowan and Dutchman Sjaak Rijke.

The three were taken by armed men in Timbuktu, according to The Local, on the terrace of their hotel.

Forty-two-year-old Gustafsson landed at Stockholm's Arlanda Airport this afternoon (June 26).

Sweden's foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom, said: "It is with great pleasure that I can announce that Johan Gustafsson has been released and can return to Sweden.

"Johan's situation has touched many of us and extensive efforts have been made to get him released.

"I have already spoken to Johan and he was in good spirits and overwhelmed by everything that's going on."

She added that Swedish and foreign authorities had worked on his release alongside the foreign ministry and the police.

During the kidnapping, Rijke's wife was able to escape, but a German who fought against the kidnappers was killed.

Responsibility for the abduction was claimed by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

The group was among many jihadist factions who took control of the north of Mali in 2012, before a French-led military operation began in January 2013 and the groups were removed.

In April 2015, French special forces freed Rijke but the fate of McGowan is not clear.