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Al-Qaeda in Mali frees Swedish hostage held since 2011

Al-Qaeda in Mali frees Swedish hostage held since 2011

Mali

The Swedish government has confirmed that its national who was kidnapped by al-Qaeda in Mali has been released and was being flown back home.

The confirmation of Johan Gustafsson’s release was contained in a statement by Foreign Minister Margot Wallström.

The professional motorcyclist was kidnapped along with two others by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) group in 2011. He was picked along with Sjaak Rijke, a Dutchman, and Frenchman Serge Lazarevic.

It is with great pleasure that I can announce that Johan Gustafsson has been released and can return to Sweden. Johan's situation has touched many of us, and extensive efforts have been made to secure his release.

He is, however, the last of the three to be freed after negotiations between the Swedish government and AQIM. Lazarevic was released in December 2014 as part of a prisoner swap deal whiles Rijke was chanced upon a little over a year ago during a dawn raid in northern Mali.

The full text of the Swedish government’s statement read as follows

“It is with great pleasure that I can announce that Johan Gustafsson has been released and can return to Sweden. Johan’s situation has touched many of us, and extensive efforts have been made to secure his release.

“The government would like to highlight the excellent cooperation that has characterized the work of the Foreign Ministry, the National Police’s operational department and other Swedish and foreign authorities. A work that finally made it possible that John can come home.

“I would urge everyone to show respect in relation to Johan and his family and let them choose for themselves whether and when they speak.”

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