Switzerland says its national held hostage in Mali killed

Swiss foreign ministry says Beatrice Stoeckli, kidnapped four years ago by alleged al-Qaeda fighters, has been killed.

Mali has been plagued by an eight-year conflict that began as a separatist movement in the north [File: Joe Penney/Reuters]

Switzerland’s foreign ministry says a Swiss woman held hostage in Mali since 2016 has been killed by an armed group affiliated to al-Qaeda.

The ministry on Friday said it was informed by the French authorities that the hostage had been “killed by kidnappers of the Islamist terrorist organisation Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam Muslimeen” (JNIM) about a month ago.

The JNIM is considered Mali’s branch of al-Qaeda armed group.

Switzerland’s foreign minister condemned the killing of Stoeckli, whose release his country had quietly been trying to negotiate since she was kidnapped four years ago.

“It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of our fellow citizen,” Ignazio Cassis said in a statement. “I condemn this cruel act and express my deepest sympathy to the relatives.”

Cassis said the exact circumstances of her killing were still unclear.

“The information about the killing was obtained by the French authorities from the recently released French hostage,” the ministry said, adding that it was trying to find out more about the circumstances of Stoeckli’s killing and the whereabouts of her remains.

Earlier this week, French aid worker Sophie Petronin, Italians Reverend Pierluigi Maccalli and Nicola Chiacchio, and prominent Malian politician Soumaila Cisse were released days after the Malian government freed nearly 200 fighters in an apparent prisoner exchange.

Stoeckli, a Christian missionary, and at least four other foreign hostages were held by the JNIM and its associates. The fate of the others was not immediately known.

Source: News Agencies