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AL QAEDA

Swiss woman abducted in Mali: local official

A Swiss woman has been abducted in the rebel-held northern Malian city of Timbuktu, now controlled by Islamist fighters, a local official and a resident of the town told AFP on Sunday.

“Beatrice, a Swiss national, was abducted this Sunday at Timbuktu by armed men,” local official Mohamed Ould Hassen told AFP.

“I saw six armed men take Beatrice away this Sunday,” said one resident of the town. “They shouted ‘Allah Akbar’ (God is great).

The sources described Beatrice as a Christian woman in her 40s, very active in the local community, who had lived for years in the city.

She was the last westerner still living there, having refused to leave after the Ansar Dine Islamist movement, with the help of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), took control of the city on April 1st.

AQIM, which has bases in the north of Mali, operates in several countries in the region. It has abducted a number of Europeans in the past.

HOSTAGE

Swiss hostage ‘killed by jihadis in Mali’: ministry

A Swiss woman being held hostage in Mali "was apparently killed by kidnappers... about a month ago", Bern's foreign ministry said in a statement Friday.

Swiss hostage 'killed by jihadis in Mali': ministry
The information was provided by Sophie Petronin (above), who returned to France on Friday after four years in captivity. Photo: Stringer/AFP
“It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of our fellow citizen,” foreign affairs chief Ignazio Cassis said, adding that “I condemn this cruel act and express my deepest sympathy to the relatives”.
   
Switzerland did not release the name of the hostage who had been killed, but said they had been held by the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM), an alliance comprising several jihadist groups aligned to al-Qaeda that has claimed responsibility for some of the biggest attacks in the Sahel region.
   
The foreign ministry (DFAE) said that “information about the killing was obtained by the French authorities from the recently released French hostage” Sophie Petronin, who returned to France on Friday after being freed by the Malian insurgents following almost four years in captivity.
 
   
Swiss authorities “are making every effort to find out more about the circumstances of the killing and the whereabouts of the remains,” the DFAE said, adding  that it “demands handing over” of the hostage's body.
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