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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 August 2018

Al Qaeda’s Mali branch releases video of two female hostages

Video shows Colombian nun Gloria Cecilia Narvaez caring for French aid worker Sophie Petronin

French hostage Sophie Petronin was abducted from Gao in Mali in December 2016
French hostage Sophie Petronin was abducted from Gao in Mali in December 2016

Al Qaeda’s Mali branch released a proof-of-life video on Wednesday showing footage of two female hostages abducted in separate incidents and held for more than a year, according to SITE Intelligence Group.

The video, which was released on Telegram by the Mali-based Al Qaeda affiliate known by its acronym JNIM, shows Colombian nun Gloria Cecilia Narvaez caring for French aid worker Sophie Petronin, according to the US-based group that monitors jihadist communications.

Ms Petronin was kidnapped in late 2016 in Gao, Mali. Ms Narvaez was seized near Mali’s border with Burkina Faso in February last year.

In the video, which Ms Petronin indicates was recorded on June 7, the two women address the camera.

Ms Petronin speaks out to her son, after allegedly hearing a message from him, according to a transcript of the video by SITE Intelligence Group. She expresses a wish to reunite with her family, and addresses the French government saying she fears being sacrificed.

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Al Qaeda-linked Mali extremists release hostage video

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Ms Narvaez addresses Pope Francis, thanking him for his interest in her case and asking him to help intervene to help the ailing Ms Petronin.

In January, the Mali insurgency released a video of Ms Narvaez with an extremist member narrating an appeal for the payment for her release. The last video of Ms Petronin was released in July last year alongside five other foreign hostages. Ms Narvaez was also in that video, which came shortly before France’s president visited Mali.

A number of hostages in Mali have been held for years. The extremists have made a fortune in the past decade abducting foreigners in the vast Sahel region and demanding enormous ransoms for their release.

A Swede, Johan Gustafsson, was freed in June last year after being held by Islamic extremists in Mali for six years. South African Stephen McGown, also held for six years, was released in late July last year. Both governments said they did not pay ransoms.

A French-led intervention drove out Islamic extremists from strongholds in northern Mali in 2013, but the extremists have continued targeting peacekeepers and other forces.

Al Qaeda and ISIS-linked extremists have pushed into central Mali, and also stage attacks in Niger and Burkina Faso.

In March last year, the extremist groups Ansar Dine, Al Mourabitoun and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb declared that they had merged to form JNIM. The group has also claimed responsibility for attacks in neighbouring Burkina Faso.

A recently created G5 Sahel Force aims to have 5,000 troops from Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Chad countering extremist groups linked to ISIS and Al Qaeda in the Sahel region.

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