Swede captured with SA's McGown in Mali freed

Swede captured with SA's McGown in Mali freed

A Swedish man kidnapped by Islamic militants in northern Mali almost six years ago has been released from captivity, the Swedish government confirmed Monday.

"The government would like to highlight the excellent cooperation that has characterized the work of the Foreign Ministry, the National Police's operational department and other Swedish and foreign authorities".

"It is with great pleasure that I can announce that Johan Gustafsson has been released", Ms Wallström added.

The professional motorcyclist was kidnapped along with two others by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) group in 2011.

Gustafsson was kidnapped in Timbuktu on November 25, 2011 by Al Qaeda's North Africa branch along with South African Stephen McGown and Dutchman Sjaak Rijke, according to the BBC.

"I welcomed him home, and I can say that he is in good health and is holding up well, given the circumstances", she said.

The Swedish foreign minister told Swedish Radio that "he is doing well and is overwhelmed by everything going on". She said only that "Sweden's policy is to not pay ransoms in the event of kidnappings".

Wallstrom did not provide further details about how Gustafsson's release was negotiated.

The Swedish foreign ministry provided no details about McGown's fate. "No single case concerned me more as foreign minister".

In April 2015, French special forces freed Rijke but the fate of McGowan is not clear.

Sweden's former Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said that Mr Gustafsson's kidnapping weighed heavily on his mind during his time in the role, which ended in 2014.

The released person was identified as Johan Gustafsson. The extremists were later forced from their strongholds in early 2013 by a French-led military operation but continue to launch attacks on peacekeepers and Malian forces.

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