Last Of Five Catholic Hostages Freed In Mali

A Malian priest — the last of a group of five Catholics kidnapped in mid-June — has been freed, church and government sources said Wednesday.

Armed men took the five people hostage in the centre of Mali on June 21 after they left Segue to attend the funeral of another priest in the area, where there is a large Catholic community.

Four of them were freed two days later, including Segue village chief Thimothe Somboro, vice mayor Pascal Somboro and two other Catholics.

Leon Douyon, a priest in the Segue parish, continued to be held until now.

Kizito Togo, an official of the Mopti parish, confirmed that Douyon had been let go.

“Our brother, Abbey Leon, is free. He has got back to his family, safe and sound,” he told AFP.

Governor of the Mopti region Abass Dembele confirmed Douyon’s release, saying he had “gone back to his village.”

Mali has been struggling to contain a jihadist insurgency that first emerged in the north of the country in 2012, and which has since spread to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Kidnappings, once rare, have become more common in recent years as a security crisis has deepened in Mali, particularly in the centre of the former French colony.

But the abduction of five Catholics stands out in the Muslim-majority country. According to the archdiocese, about 4 percent of Mali’s population is Christian.

In early April a French journalist was kidnapped by jihadists affiliated with Al-Qaeda in northern Mali.

A Franciscan nun from Colombia, sister Gloria Cecilia Narvaez, was kidnapped by jihadists in Mali in 2017 and is still considered held hostage.

Her brother Edgar Narvaez told AFP on Sunday that he had received a letter in her handwriting via the Red Cross that proved she is still alive.

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