Al-Qaeda releases Swedish hostage held in Mali since 2011

Swede held by Al Qaeda in Mali since 2011 freed Swedish govt

Swede held by Al Qaeda in Mali since 2011 freed Swedish govt

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom announced the release of Johan Gustafsson — who had been on a motorcycle tour through Africa — without giving details on what had finally led to his freedom, leaving also open whether the Nordic country's government paid a ransom in exchange for his freedom.

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is known for its kidnapping of Westerners, as the group aims to eliminate all Western influence in North Africa.

The Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the question of a ransom. Gustafsson was flown back to Sweden where he arrived Monday afternoon.

Wallström told local media she has talked to Gustafsson, who is "in good spirits and overwhelmed by everything that is happening".

She said his release was the result of several agencies working together, including the foreign ministry, the police and Swedish and foreign authorities.

Gustafsson, McGowan and Dutchman Sjaak Rijke were abducted by al-Qaeda in Timbuktu, northern Mali, in November 2011.

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He also praised the festival for inspiring arts and music and for promoting the importance of protecting the environment. I want to see a world where there is real opportunity for everybody in our society.

The group was among many jihadist factions who took control of the north of Mali in 2012, before a French-led military operation began in January 2013 and the groups were removed.

Mr Rijke was freed in April 2015 by French special forces.

Gift of the Givers, a South African charity, has worked to secure the release of McGown and Gustafsson since 2015, sending a negotiator into remote parts of Mali and Niger. "I don't think Stephen has been released", said Imtiaz Sooliman, head of Gift of the Givers.

AQIM claimed responsibility for the kidnappings.

His father, Malcolm, told eNCA he was waiting on tenterhooks for any news of what the release of Johan Gustafsson, 42, Gustaffson's release might mean for his son.

French aid worker Sophie Petronin was abducted in the northern Malian city of Gao in late 2016.

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