Al-Qaeda frees hostage Johan Gustafsson after six years

A French soldier stands guard in an armoured vehicle in northern Mali in March 2013.Image copyright

Image caption

The French military launched an operation against AQIM in January 2013

Hostage Johan Gustafsson, held by al-Qaeda in Mali since 2011, has been freed, the Swedish government says.

Mr Gustafsson, 42, is being flown back to Sweden from Africa, Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallström said in a statement on Monday.

He was seized by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) along with two other men, one of whom was freed in a dawn raid in 2015.

Ms Wallström said Mr Gustafsson was “in good spirits”, local media report.

“It is with great pleasure that I can announce that Johan Gustafsson has been released,” Ms Wallström added.

Mr Gustafsson was kidnapped along with South African Stephen Malcolm and Dutchman Sjaak Rijke.

Mr Rijke was freed by French special forces in April 2015 after he was discovered by chance in a dawn raid in northern Mali.

AQIM took a number of Western hostages before the French military deployed its forces in January 2013.

In a separate incident in December 2014, French hostage Serge Lazarevic was freed after a prisoner swap.

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