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KIDNAPPING

Extremists abduct Swiss woman in north Mali

Gunmen abducted a Swiss woman overnight Thursday to Friday in Timbuktu in northern Mali, where she had lived for several years and was previously held by extremists, official sources say.

Extremists abduct Swiss woman in north Mali
French and Mali soldiers patrol outside mosque in Timbuktu earlier last year. Photo: Philippe Desmayes/AFP

“Beatrice, a Swiss citizen, was kidnapped in her home in Timbuktu by gunmen,” a Timbuktu government official told AFP.
   
A Malian security source said armed men had gone to her home on Thursday night, “knocked on the door, she opened, and they left with her.”
   
Beatrice Stockly was kidnapped a first time in April 2012 by Islamist fighters but released thanks to mediation efforts by Burkina Faso authorities.
   
Two foreign hostages seized the previous year in 2011 by members of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a South African and a Swede, are still in captivity.
   
Jihadist fighters including AQIM members seized control of Mali's vast remote north in March-April 2012 but were chased out the following year by a French-led military intervention.
   
A regional French counterterrorism force is still conducting operations in the area.
   
Entire swathes of the north remain beyond the reach of both the Malian army and foreign troops, however.

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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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