Dakar (Senegal): Al-Qaida’s Mali branch has released a proof-of-life video showing footage of two female hostages abducted in separate incidents and held for more than a year, according to SITE Intelligence Group.
The video released on Telegram yesterday by the Mali-based al-Qaida affiliate known by its acronym JNIM shows Colombian nun Gloria Cecilia Narvaez caring for French aid worker Sophie Petronin, according to the US-based group that monitors jihadist communications. Petronin was kidnapped in late 2016 in Gao, Mali. Narvaez was seized near Mali’s border with Burkina Faso in February 2017.
In the video, which Petronin indicates was recorded June 7, the two women address the camera. Petronin speaks out to her son, after allegedly hearing a message from him, according to a transcript of the video by SITE Intelligence Group. She expresses a wish to reunite with her family, and addresses the French government saying she fears being sacrificed.
Narvaez addresses Pope Francis, thanking him for his interest in her case and asking him to help intervene to help the ailing Petronin. In January, the Mali insurgency released a video of Narvaez with an extremist member narrating an appeal for the payment for her release. The last video of Petronin was released in July 2017 alongside five other foreign hostages. Narvaez was also in that video, which came shortly before France’s president visited Mali.
A number of hostages in Mali have been held for years. The extremists have made a fortune over the last decade abducting foreigners in the vast Sahel region and demanding enormous ransoms for their release. A Swede, Johan Gustafsson, was freed in June 2017 after being held by Islamic extremists in Mali for six years. South African Stephen McGown, also held for six years, was released in late July 2017. Both governments said they did not pay ransoms.
A French-led intervention drove out Islamic extremists from strongholds in northern Mali in 2013, but the extremists have continued targeting peacekeepers and other forces. Al-Qaida and Islamic State terror group-linked extremists have pushed into central Mali, and also stage attacks in Niger and Burkina Faso. In March 2017, the extremist groups Ansar Dine, Al-Mourabitoun and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb declared that they had merged to form JNIM.
The group has also claimed responsibility for attacks in neighboring Burkina Faso. A recently created G5 Sahel Force aims to have 5,000 troops from Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Chad countering extremist groups linked to the Islamic State terror group and the al-Qaida in the Sahel region.