• Switzerland's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Bern struggling to free Swiss kidnapped again in Mali
Burkhalter: 'We're in a battle to keep her alive.' Photo: AFP/File

Bern struggling to free Swiss kidnapped again in Mali

AFP · 31 Jan 2016, 20:29

Published: 31 Jan 2016 20:29 GMT+01:00

"We are facing a case that is very delicate and very difficult to resolve," Burkhalter told Le Matin Dimanche.

Beatrice Stockly, who was previously abducted by Islamists from Timbuktu in 2012, was taken for the second time on January 7th by armed men who stormed her home in the country's fabled city.

The kidnapping was claimed by Al-Qaeda's north Africa affiliate (AQIM) who issued an eight-minute video in which it denounced Stockly as "a Swiss nun who declared war against Islam".

The footage was replete with montages of jihadists brandishing weapons and the masked speaker spoke with a British accent.

Stockly, who is in her 40s, has lived in Timbuktu for years and has previously been identified as a missionary and social worker.

The last time she was snatched in April 2012, she was described as the last Westerner living in the legendary desert city who had refused to leave despite it being captured by Islamist Ansar Dine rebels on April 1st.

Two weeks later, special forces from Burkina Faso swept into rebel-held northern Mali aboard a helicopter and whisked her to safety in a pre-arranged handover by Islamist rebels.

 Battling for her life

In Sunday's interview, Burkhalter said that the fact that Stockly's kidnapping was her second considerably complicated efforts to free her.

He pointed out that the last time she was kidnapped, her abductors had demanded that she leave and never return to Mali.

"That's where the difficulty lies," he said.

"We are in a battle to try to keep her alive.

"Unfortunately, that is not going to be easy."

Stockly's decision to remain in Mali has been harshly criticized, with some politicians calling for her to be handed for her rescue — if she makes it out.

Burkhalter acknowledged Swiss authorities had warned Stockly a number of times about the dangers of remaining in Mali, but said he would not judge her for ignoring the warnings.

"She is a missionary who felt her life and her role was over there," he said.

Switzerland has a clear policy against paying ransoms, he said, stressing it would only lay "the groundwork for future kidnappings . . . it would be a vicious circle."

Stockly's capture is believed to be the first in northern Mali since the kidnap and murder of two French radio journalists in November 2013.

The two were snatched from the northeastern town of Kidal and their bodies found several hours later.

Earlier this month, an elderly Australian doctor and his wife were seized by jihadists in a remote town in neighbouring Burkina Faso on the night of January 15th-16th.

Story continues below…

 

 

For more news from Switzerland, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Today's headlines
Former head of Zurich Insurance dies aged 59
Martin Senn stepped down from Zurich Insurance last year. Photo: Zurich Insurance

Martin Senn took his own life on Friday, the company has announced.

Murderer escapes from Swiss psych hospital
The escaped killer. Photo: Aargau cantonal police

A man convicted of murdering a young girl in the canton of Ticino in 2009 has escaped from a psychiatric clinic and is still at large 48 hours later.

Weekend storms wreak havoc in Switzerland
File photo: Alexander Boden

Storms and heavy rain cause flooding, power outages and landslides.

Swiss Wawrinka advances to the French Open last-eight
It was Wawrinka's fifth win in five meetings with Troicki. Photo: AFP

Defending champion Stan Wawrinka moves into the French Open quarterfinals.

Vast Swiss rail tunnel finally sees light at end of long wait
Workers standing in one of the Gotthard base access tunnels. Photo: AFP

The Gotthard Base Tunnel opens on Wednesday.

London Olympic athletes fail new doping tests
IOC president Thomas Bach announced the news. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/ADP

The Lausanne-based International Olympic Committee reports 23 new doping failures from 2012 Games.

Swiss supermarkets look to scrap free plastic bags
Coop is among the supermarkets considering the idea. Photo: Coop

Voluntary agreement may be the solution after a commission quashes idea of outright ban.

Head-on crash leaves Swiss motorcyclist dead
The accident happened on the way to Les Mosses. File photo: Falk Lademann

A motorcyclist died in a head-on crash with a car on a mountain road in Vaud.

Bern renews funding for controversial arts centre
Bern town hall. File photo: Dennie Jarvis

The Reitschule has been granted a reprieve after authorities in the city agreed a 1.5 million franc grant to keep it going until 2019.

Neighbours’ day: Swiss cities join growing European party
Around 40 towns in Switzerland will celebrate Neighbours' Day. Photo: Tag der Nachbarn

St Gallen becomes the latest Swiss town to take part in European Neighbours’ Day.

Photo: Swiss Tourism
Features
10 unspoken rules for fitting in with the Swiss
Sponsored Article
Eat, learn, live: unforgettable holidays in France
Photo: Alp Transit Gotthard
National
Gotthard base tunnel: what you need to know
Photo: Caroline Bishop
Sport
Swiss cantons team up to vie for winter Olympic games
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Photo: Broad Bean Media
National
Basel: Muslim schoolboys must shake hands or face fine
Photo: Emmanual Dunand/AFP
Sport
Brother of Belgian bomber wins gold in Switzerland
Photo: Gstaad Tourism
National
Snow puts end to hottest weekend of year so far
File photo: Abhishek Jacob
Lifestyle
Swiss court vetoes wedding of couple with 50-year age gap
Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP
Culture
Dog day afternoon: Swiss saint meets Pope in Rome
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Business & Money
Pink diamond sold for record-breaking $31m in Geneva
File photo: Candida Performa
Lifestyle
Revealed: living in Switzerland could prolong your life
Photo: Cervo
Travel
In pictures: Switzerland’s most welcoming hotels
Photo: Aargau cantonal government
‘Beast of Rupperswil’ was local football coach
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Features
Geneva exhibition marks 200 years of Frankenstein
Photo AFP
National
Swiss basic income campaign sets Guinness world record
Photo: St Gallen police
Society
Police hunt killer of man shot dead in St Gallen street
File photo: Martin Abegglen
Society
Presumed jihadist could have Swiss nationality quashed
Photo: Zurich Zoo
Culture
Gallery: giant tortoise at Zurich Zoo is mother at 80
Photo: Caroline Bishop
Society
Swiss farmer loses appeal in row over noisy cow bells
Photo: Esparta Palmer
Health
44-year-old woman refused fertility treatment on insurance
File photo: Thomas Coex/AFP
Society
Jilted admirer shocks woman with tattoo... of her face
File photo: Flickr
Health
Swiss school eyes longer holidays for non-smoking staff
4,570
jobs available