Family of French hostage Sophie Pétronin makes appeal to Macron

Handout/ | Sophie Pétronin.

A nephew of Sophie Pétronin, a Frenchwoman taken hostage in Mali in late 2016, has appealed to Emmanuel Macron “not to let [my] aunt die over there” and to meet with the family of the “last French hostage held in the world” at the Élysée Palace.


Armed men abducted Pétronin, who ran an organisation assisting orphans in Mali, on December 24, 2016, in Gao, in the country's north.

“One cannot let someone die like that,” Arnaud Granouillac told Agence France-Presse after launching the appeal on local television.

“We know perfectly well that nothing is happening but it is especially so that [French president Macron] has the decency to have us there like all the other hostages’ families,” Granouillac added.

The 75-year-old Pétronin, who has cancer and malaria, has been “held in the desert without treatment for more than 600 days”, her nephew said. “Her health is deteriorating from one day to the next” as her appearance illustrated, he said, in a video released in June in which the hostage addresses her son Sébastien.

>> The Interview: Son of Sophie Pétronin, French hostage in Mali, says she is still alive

Granouillac suggested the family has made several requests for reception at the presidential palace, without success. The family has asked to know the reasoning, he said, noting it has had “informal contact” with the French foreign ministry. “But it is not moving forward… We know very well that Mr. Macron does not want to negotiate but he should at least have the decency to say so to our face.”

“We will never abandon my aunt and my cousin will never abandon his mother and they need to be well aware of that,” Granouillac said.

Alain Rousset, president of Nouvelle-Aquitaine's regional council, is due to meet with her family on Wednesday, August 29. A large portrait of Pétronin has been displayed on the building's façade in the hostage’s native Bordeaux.

Macron said on July 13 that France was working “tirelessly” to locate Pétronin.

Initially, no group claimed the Frenchwoman’s abduction. Then, in July 2017, the main jihadist alliance in the Sahel, a group linked to al Qaeda, released a video showing six foreigners kidnapped in Mali and Burkina Faso between 2011 and 2017, with Pétronin among them.

In 2012, Mali's north fell under the control of jihadist groups linked to al Qaeda who exploited an ethnic Tuareg-led rebel uprising, though the Islamists were largely ousted by a French-led military operation in January 2013.

Since then, jihadists have continued to mount numerous attacks on civilians and the army, as well as on French and United Nations forces stationed there.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning