Over the weekend, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in the Sahel (which we will continue to refer to as AQIM – Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) released a series of six hostage videos, just as French President Emmanuel Macron was preparing to visit Mali to discuss security. The group responsible is known as the Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM). You will find more information on the hostages, the videos and some of the response below.

This piece from the Long War Journal is worth a read, detailing the video content and adding a little  background to the different cases.

The hostages

  • Stephen McGowan, South Africa, was abducted in November 2011 from Timbuktu, alongside Swedish Johan Gustafsson and Dutchman Sjaak Rijke. Rijke was freed by French special forces in April 2015. Gustafsson was released in June this year.
  • Australian doctor Ken Elliott, 82, abducted along with his wife near their clinic in Burkina Faso in January 2016. Jocelyn Elliott, 77, was released about a month after their abduction.
  • French aid worker Sophie Petronin was abducted from Gao in December 2016.
  • Romanian Iulian Ghergut was abducted in Burkina Faso in April 2014, while working as a security guard at a mine.
  • Beatrice Stockly, a Swiss missionary, was abducted from her home in Timbuktu in January 2016. She had been abducted from the same house four years previously and on that occasion was released after a couple of days.
  • In February this year, Colombian nun Gloria Cecilia Narvaez was abducted from Karangasso in Mali.

From the BBC

Hostages shown in al-Qaeda Mali video as Macron flies in

A Mali-based al-Qaeda affiliate has released a video of six foreign hostages ahead of a visit by French President Emmanuel Macron to the country.

They include a French NGO worker, an elderly Australian surgeon and a Colombian nun.

No “genuine” negotiations to release them have taken place, the video says.

Please click here to read more.

From Time Magazine and the AP

Al-Qaeda-Linked Extremists in Mali Release a Video Showing Six Foreign Hostages

The recently formed Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen issued the video Saturday on Telegram, the SITE Intelligence Group said. The video shows Stephen McGowan of South Africa, Elliot Kenneth Arthur of Australia, Iulian Ghergut of Romania, Beatrice Stockly of Switzerland, Gloria Cecilia Narvaez of Colombia and Sophie Petronin of France.

Please click here to read more.

From France24

France’s Sophie Petronin shown in video among other hostages in Mali

In the video, the hostages are separately introduced by a narrator, who says that so far there have been no negotiations for their release.

The first shown is McGown, who was abducted in Timbuktu, northern Mali, in November 2011.

“It’s a long time to be away … Until when do you think this will come to an end? Now we’re making a new video, but I don’t know what to say. It’s all been said in the past. It’s all been said in previous videos I’ve made,” McGowan says, according to a transcription by SITE.

Please click here to read more.

Stephen McGowan ransom

From the Daily Maverick

SA hostage in Mali: ‘Please help me to bring this to a close’

“Does Stephen McGowan not deserve the same freedom as his fellow South Africans?”

Nusrat al-Islam appears here to be appealing to someone for the ransom which it had earlier demanded. Sooliman said the ransom demand had originally been €10-million but it had come down to €4-million.

But he added that Gift of the Givers had already conveyed to the captors through intermediaries in Mali that neither McGowan’s family not Gift of the Givers were able to pay a ransom. Sooliman said he had also conveyed the message to his captors that McGowan might die of loneliness and depression now that his companion, Gustafsson, was no longer with him.

Please click here to read more.


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