Freed Swedish hostage recalls six years of captivity in Mali

A Swedish national, who was held almost six years by Islamist militants in Mali said on Thursday he “did not know” why he was released, saying he rejected possible ransom payments.

“I can just speculate like everyone else,’’ Johan Gustafsson told a news conference about why he was freed in June.

“I hope it was because they were really tired of me. I hope Sweden stands on its policy [not to pay ransom] and does not change that.

“I don’t believe in ransom,” he said at his first public appearance since his release.

He was kidnapped in November 2011 while touring Timbuktu together with South African national Stephen McGowan, who was released in July.

A Dutch national, Sjaak Rijke, who was also held hostage was freed by French special forces in 2015.

A German man, who resisted the kidnapping, was killed.

Gustafsson said his release at the end of June “was unexpected.”

He said he was trying to readjust to life as a free man and was catching up with friends.

Both the Swedish and South African governments have said they did not pay any ransom.

“I’m very happy that Steve’s out,” Gustafsson added.

The kidnappers were believed to be members of the al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) group.

Gustafsson said he did not know if other countries or organisations were involved in their release.



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