A Colombian Franciscan nun kidnapped by jihadists in Mali more than four years ago has been released, the Malian presidency said.
Sister Gloria Cecilia Narváez was taken hostage on February 7, 2017 in southern Mali, near the border with Burkina Faso, where she had been working as a missionary.
A statement on the presidential Twitter account paid tribute to her “courage and bravery” along with photos of the nun taken after her release on Saturday.
“I thank the Malian authorities, the president, all the Malian authorities, for all the efforts they have made to free me, God bless them, God bless Mali,” Sister Gloria said in images broadcast on state television that they show her with Mali’s interim president, Colonel Assimi Goita, and the Archbishop of Bamako, Jean Zerbo.
“I am very happy, I stayed healthy for five years, thank God,” said the nun, smiling and wearing a yellow robe.
His release had been the result of “four years and eight months of the joint effort of various intelligence services,” the presidency said.
In the official statement, Goita assured that “efforts are being made” to achieve the release of all those still detained in Mali.
Archbishop Zerbo said Sister Gloria was “fine.”
“We pray very much for his release. I thank the Malian authorities and other good people who made this release possible,” the archbishop said.
Sister Gloria, 59, was abducted near Koutiala, 400 kilometers (250 miles) east of Bamako. She had worked as a missionary for six years in the Karangasso parish with three other nuns.
According to one of her companions, Sister Carmen Isabel Valencia, she volunteered instead of two younger nuns that the kidnappers were preparing to take away.
“She is a woman of a very particular human quality, with her feet on the ground … moved by the love of the poor,” said Sister Carmen.
In Colombia, his brother Edgar Narváez said he was very excited after receiving the news of his release.
“She is in good health, thank God. They sent me photos and she looks good,” he told AFP.
In a letter sent last July by the Red Cross to her brother, Sister Gloria said she was being held by “a group of GSIM,” the Islam and Muslim Support Group linked to Al-Qaeda, the largest jihadist alliance. of the Sahel.
A source close to the negotiations for her release told AFP that she had not been mistreated during her captivity and during that time she had learned the Koran.
“The negotiations lasted for months, years,” said the source, without giving further details.
Bound for Rome
An official at the Bamako airport, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP that the nun had arrived in the Malian capital on Saturday night from where she was to fly to Rome. His departure from Bamako was confirmed by the city’s archdiocese.
In Colombia, Vice President Marta Lucía Ramírez, who is also foreign minister, said she was “very happy” for the release of Sister Gloria, which she attributed to the government’s work and also highlighted the “humanitarian efforts of the French government.” to contribute to this success. “
The director of the National Police, Jorge Luis Vargas, also welcomed his release.
“Today is very good news for Colombia, but also for the National Police for all the efforts made over the years to achieve the safe release of our compatriot,” he said.
Vargas said meetings had been held with several European and African ambassadors to try to secure the nun’s release.
“With Interpol, and with other international organizations, we have always sought to bring those responsible to justice.”
There were spotty reports of the nun over the years, including in early 2021, when two Europeans who managed to escape captivity reported that she was fine.
Then in March, her brother received proof that she was still alive, deceased from the Red Cross.
It was a letter written in capital letters “because she always used capital letters”, containing her parents’ names and ending with their signature, she told AFP earlier this year.
Mali has been fighting to contain a jihadist insurgency that first emerged in the north of the country in 2012 and has since spread to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.
Kidnappings, which were once rare, have become more common in recent years as the security crisis has worsened in Mali, particularly in the center of the former French colony.
French journalist Olivier Dubois was abducted on April 8 in northern Mali by jihadists affiliated with Al-Qaeda.
Dubois, who worked with various French media outlets, said in a hostage video that GSIM had kidnapped him.