A Swiss woman was kidnapped by gunmen in the northern Malian city of Timbuktu on Friday, according to FRANCE 24's sister radio station RFI. The woman had previously been abducted in April 2012 by Islamist militants.
The Swiss national was abducted overnight Thursday to Friday in Timbuktu, where she had been living for several years, RFI reported.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is active in desert areas north of the city and has a history of seizing foreigners and demanding ransoms.
The incident comes nearly four years after the woman, believed to be Beatrice Stockly, was kidnapped by Islamist militants from the same house. A missionary, she was released later the same month following negotiations mediated by Burkina Faso.
Four vehicles were used in Friday’s abduction, said a military source in Timbuktu who declined to be identified.
“One vehicle parked in front of the house and armed men got out and abducted the woman, while the other three cars secured the area from a distance,” said the source.
French forces drove Islamist fighters from major urban centres in 2013 but they have intensified their insurgency with a series of attacks and roadside bombings last year.
The Swiss foreign ministry formed a task force when it heard about Friday’s kidnapping and was working for the woman’s safe release, a statement said, adding that since 2009 it had advised against travel to Mali because of the high risk of kidnapping.
“After the kidnapping of 2012, the ministry had pointed out to the affected Swiss national the high personal risk in Mali ... and strongly discouraged her from another stay in Mali,” it said.
France continues to fight militants in Mali and elsewhere in the desert region with a 3,500-strong counter-terrorism force called Barkhane. A 10,000-strong UN peacekeeping force is also present in Mali.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2016-01-08