Colombian nun released in Mali after 4 years in captivity

Abductions by al-Qaeda and ISIL-affiliated groups have been frequent as Mali struggles to contain violence.

A Colombian nun who was abducted in 2017 by fighters in Mali has been freed.

Gloria Cecilia Narvaez was released on Saturday after more than four years of captivity. She was kidnapped by the Macina Liberation Front, an al-Qaeda-linked group, in February 2017 near the border with Burkina Faso.

“The presidency of Mali salutes the courage and bravery of the nun. This liberation is the crowning achievement of four years and eight months of combined efforts by several intelligence services,” the presidency said in a statement.

Photos posted on the presidency’s Twitter feed showed Narvaez, smiling and dressed in a yellow robe and headscarf, meeting with Mali’s interim President Assimi Goita.

Kidnapping has been a lucrative source of cash for armed groups in West Africa’s Sahel region, where they are waging an expanding insurgency against national armies, French forces and UN peacekeepers.

The presidency did not say whether any ransom was paid for Narvaez.

Mali has been struggling since 2012 to contain violence linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL-affiliated groups. The fighters have now expanded their operations from their strongholds in the country’s desert north to its centre as well as neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

In April, a French journalist was abducted in northern Mali. In a hostage video, Olivier Dubois said the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM), the largest alliance of armed groups in the Sahel, had kidnapped him.

Gunmen abducted three Chinese nationals and two Mauritanians from a construction site in southwestern Mali in July.

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