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German priest abducted in Mali in 2022 freed: officials

German priest abducted in Mali in 2022 freed: officials
Pope Francis holds his pastoral staff as he celebrates a mass on the occasion of the...   -  
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A German Catholic priest, Father Hans-Joachim Lohre, who disappeared in Mali in November 2022 and was thought to have been kidnapped, has been released, two archdiocesan and government officials said on Sunday.

"The priest Hans-Joachim Lohre, who was abducted on 20 November 2022, was released on Sunday. He is on a plane to his country", an archdiocesan official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity as is customary in hostage cases. A government official confirmed the information, also on condition of anonymity.

No details were given of the priest's state of health or the conditions of his detention and release.

Father Hans-Joachim Lohre disappeared when he was supposed to be celebrating mass in a district of Bamako. He has since been considered to have been the victim of a kidnapping, which is common in Mali but exceptional in the capital.

However, AFP is not aware of any claim to have been made for his abduction.

Nicknamed "Ha-Jo", the German priest, a member of the Society of Missionaries of Africa, known as the White Fathers, had been living in Mali for around thirty years. He taught in the Malian capital at the Institut de formation islamo-chrétienne, which receives students from Africa. He was also the national secretary of a commission for inter-religious dialogue.

This is the second German to be freed in less than a year in the Sahel, following the release in December 2022 of German humanitarian Jörg Lange, who was kidnapped on 11 April 2018 in western Niger in a region bordering Mali that is plagued by jihadist activity.

A number of foreign hostages, including a South African and an Italian couple and their son remain held in the Sahel, according to a count covering only cases made public by their entourage or government.

Since 2012, Mali has been plagued by the spread of jihadism and violence of all kinds, of which kidnappings are one aspect, whether of foreigners or Malians. The motives, whether ideological or criminal, range from ransom demands to retaliation and bargaining.

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