Mali's rebel-held Timbuktu last week.

"/> Mali's rebel-held Timbuktu last week.

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KIDNAPPING

Swiss officials in contact with Mali kidnappers

Switzerland's foreign ministry said Monday it was in contact with a group holding a Swiss woman abducted Mali's rebel-held Timbuktu last week.

“The foreign ministry is in touch with the group,” a ministry spokesman said. “Out of consideration for the interests of the abducted person, we cannot currently give any more information.”

Security sources in the region told AFP on Sunday that the woman, Beatrice Stockly, had been snatched from the group that originally kidnapped her on April 15th by armed Islamists who wanted to free her.

A source in Timbuktu said Stockly had originally been in the hands of a private militia that wanted to sell her to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

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

A separate source said Ansar Dine had “rejected an offer for mediation by a humanitarian group, saying they prefer to speak directly to the Swiss”.

Stockly is in her 40s and was the last westerner still living in Timbuktu, having refused to leave after Ansar Dine and AQIM took control of the city on April 1st after a coup in the south that allowed rebels to capture the country’s vast north.

Since seizing the fabled city, Ansar Dine has set about implementing sharia law.

AQIM, which has bases in the north of Mali, operates across the Sahel region.

Along with splinter group the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), it is currently holding 12 European and seven Algerian hostages.

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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