• Switzerland's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Swiss hostage released in Mali

AFP · 24 Apr 2012, 17:50

Published: 24 Apr 2012 16:11 GMT+02:00
Updated: 24 Apr 2012 17:50 GMT+02:00

A Swiss woman who was abducted in rebel-held Timbuktu in northern Mali last week was released Tuesday and handed over to troops from Burkina Faso.

Beatrice Stockly, who is in her 40s, was brought to the meeting point in a pick-up truck wearing a black dress and turban before being quickly whisked away by helicopter, reported an AFP journalist, who was barred from disclosing further details until the aircraft left Malian airspace.

The Swiss foreign ministry thanked "all the people and the authorities who worked" on the operation, "in particular authorities from Mali and Burkina Faso."

Stockly was the last Westerner living in Timbuktu, where she worked as a social activist, and refused to leave after the legendary desert city fell to the Islamist Ansar Dine rebels on April 1st.

She is "is fine, considering the circumstances," the ministry statement said.

Ansar Dine's assault on Timbuktu was backed by fighters from Al-Qaeda's north Africa branch known as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

A source in Timbuktu previously said Stockly had originally been in the hands of a private militia that wanted to sell her to AQIM.

Two sources in Timbuktu, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Sunday that Ansar Dine had battled the kidnappers for Stockly and were prepared to free her.

A loose alliance of Tuareg and Islamist rebels took advantage of the political chaos in Mali's capital that followed a March 22nd army coup by capturing the country's vast desert north, including Timbuktu.

But that alliance has splintered since the initial offensive. Ansar Dine has sought to impose sharia law in areas under its control and has distanced itself from the Tuareg nationalist cause.

Security sources said on Sunday that the Islamist group had rejected any intervention from humanitarian groups regarding Stockly, saying they preferred to deal directly with the Swiss government.

Switzerland's foreign ministry said on Monday it was in contact with the group holding Stockly, but declined to discuss any pending rescue operations.

Stockly was first captured roughly 10 kilometres outside Timbuktu by an unidentified armed group, security sources in the area previously told AFP.

They then tried to move her further away from the city but were confronted by the Ansar Dine fighters who now control Timbuktu.

"There was an exchange of fire," said one source, and the kidnappers "were forced to abandon the hostage."

Following Stockly's release, 19 hostages remain in the hands of AQIM and an Al-Qaeda splinter group called Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJOA) in the Sahel.

Among them are seven Algerian diplomats abducted at gunpoint on April 5th from their embassy in Gao, another key northern Malian town under rebel control.

Story continues below…

A MUJAO member told AFP by telephone on Tuesday that the group had agreed to release the prisoners following talks with Ansar Dine.

"We made an agreement with our brothers from Ansar Dine," the MUJAO member said.

In Bamako, the new leaders appointed earlier this month after the military junta agreed to stand down are struggling to form a transitional government.

Aside from re-establishing civilian rule, the government will also have to plot a strategy to reclaim the north from the collection of rebel groups that now control it.

The 15-nation west African bloc (ECOWAS) has floated the prospect of a military intervention, but the details of the operation are far from resolved.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Foreigners in Switzerland surpass 2 million mark
International flags outside the UN in Geneva. Photo: Martial Trezzini/AFP

For the first time, there are now more than two million foreigners living in Switzerland.

Geneva runs out of permits for non-EU workers
File photo: The Local

Canton complains to the federal government after it reduced the number of permits available to third state workers.

Scorchio! Late August heat breaks record in Geneva
Lake Geneva on Thursday. Photo: The Local

The mercury in Geneva hit 33.3 degrees, a record for the final week in August.

US and Russia meet in Geneva for Syria talks
John Kerry with UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Geneva on Thursday for a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

Expert predicts major quake for Switzerland by 2040
A fireman stands in the Italian village of Amatrice, which was badly hit by this week's earthquake. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

The canton of Valais is particularly at risk.

Aggressive deer put down after attacking four in Geneva
File photo: Michal Kosacky

The buck attacked four people in the same area over the course of 48 hours.

Navigation error ends badly for Basel driver

A man accidentally drove his car down a flight of steps after his passenger directed him the wrong way.

Blatter 'confident' as he faces Swiss sports court
Sepp Blatter. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Former Fifa boss Sepp Blatter is back in court on Thursday as he seeks to overturn a six-year ban from football.

Federer teams up with Nadal for new tennis tournament
Federer and Nadal at the Laver Cup launch with Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe. Photo: Alex Goodlett/Getty Images North America/AFP

The duo will play doubles together in a new competition pitting Europe against the rest of the world in a tennis team event.

Geneva advises teachers on religion in school
File photo: C Carlstead

The secular canton of Geneva has issued guidelines for teachers on how to deal with religious issues in the classroom.

Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Photo: Starship
Technology
Swiss Post trials robot parcel deliveries in Bern
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Photo: AFP
Politics
Survey: Swiss optimistic about Brexit effect
Photo: Neil Heritage/Endeavour Fund
Features
Amputee's Matterhorn trek 'makes it more possible' for others
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Photo: EPFL
International
Switzerland tops global innovation table – again
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Photo: Vasily Cotovanu
National
Asylum centre plans shelved after Swiss village protests
Photo: The Local
Politics
Neuchâtel looks to boost rights for foreigners
Photo: AFP
Sport
In pictures: final day success takes Swiss to seven medals
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Photo: AFP
National
Experts debate rail security following Swiss train attack
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
File photo: AFP
Sport
Two basejumpers die in Lauterbrunnen accidents
Photo: AFP
International
Amnesty fears for child migrants at Italian border
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
Photo: AXA Winterthur
National
Report: Geneva is Swiss capital of car theft
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Photo: Dani Pozo/AFP
National
Top tips for watching the meteor shower in Switzerland
File photo: Andrew Turner
Technology
Swiss start-up to offer drone service to farmers
Photo: Beat Strasser
National
British quadruple amputee summits Matterhorn
Photo: Judit Klein
National
Switzerland sees rise in child victims of forced marriage
Photo: Michael Schlick/OS Muhr
National
Swiss hiker in Austria rescued after sending SOS to America
Photo: Chris Murphy
Features
14 mistakes foreigners make on moving to Switzerland
Photo: AFP
Lifestyle
Swiss resort unveils huge ‘natural’ fresco on mountain
Photo: C Sonderegger/Swiss Tourism
National
Five great Swiss traditions all expats should try
Photo: AFP
National
Confirmed cases of Zika virus soar in Switzerland
Photo: eGuide Travel
National
Prison for woman who faked Swiss airport bomb threat
Photo: AFP
Technology
Swiss solar plane completes epic round-the-world trip
4,663
jobs available