Hostage Rescued After Nearly Four Years in CaptivityApril 8, 2015 in Burkina Faso, Mali
On Monday, French Special Forces rescued a Dutch civilian who was kidnapped nearly four years ago in Mali by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) militants.
France’s defense ministry confirmed Monday that Sjaad Rijke, 54, who was kidnapped in Timbuktu in November 2011, was freed during “military action carried out by the French army’s Special Forces,” adding that “this combat action has also led to the capture of several individuals.” Rijke was freed in a pre-dawn raid. He was temporarily transferred to a base in Tessalit before arriving in the Malian capital Bamako on Tuesday. Sources close to the case have disclosed that the operation occurred near Tessalit, in Mali’s far north region near the border with Algeria. According to Lieutenant Colonel Michel Sabatier, a spokesman for Barkhane, which is France’s counter-insurgency operation in the region, French forces killed two militants and captured two others in the operation.
Gunmen had stormed into Rijke’s hotel in Timbuktu in 2011, capturing him along with a South African and a Swedish national, both of who are still being held. Rijke’s wife managed to escape the attack. In November 2014, AQIM released a video of Rijke, making a statement on the 1000th day of his captivity.
Romanian National Kidnapped in Burkina Faso
On Saturday afternoon, unidentified gunmen kidnapped a Romanian security officer from a manganese mining project in northern Burkina Faso, near the border with Mali’s northern desert region.
According to security officials, the kidnapping took place at the Tambao project. Souleymane Mihin, Burkina Faso managing director for Pan African Minerals, confirmed the incident, stating “there was an attack on one of our patrols. They kidnapped the Romanian leading the patrol. The driver was wounded in the foot. A gendarme was seriously injured.” Late Saturday, the Romanian foreign ministry issued a statement confirming the kidnapping of a Romanian national and disclosing that a crisis cell has been set up in order to handle the case.
A Burkinabe security source has revealed that five gunmen were involved in the attack and that they, along with the hostage, were heading towards the nearby border with northern Mali. This has resulted in Burkinabe authorities indicating that they are planning to cross into Mali and Niger in search of the kidnappers. A Burkinabe minister disclosed Sunday “search operations are continuing. We are talking to our neighbours Mali and Niger to obtain rights to their territory in order to get our hands on the kidnappers. This is an area which borders the two countries, so the sweep will roll out in both directions.” Burkina Faso’s Regiment of Presidential Security, which is an elite secret service that specializes in anti-terrorism, has been deployed to Tambao in a bid to strengthen an army detachment, which arrived in the town on Saturday. Residents in Tambao have disclosed that security forces have begun “intensive searches” of vehicles in towns across the north, adding, “police are systematically searching vehicles.”