Colombian nun kidnapped in 2017 free: Mali presidency

Bamako (AFP) –


A Franciscan nun from Colombia kidnapped by jihadists in Mali in 2017 was freed Saturday, said a statement from Mali's presidential office.

The statement on the presidential Twitter account paid tribute to the courage of Sister Gloria Cecilia Narvaez, who was held for four years and eight months.

In the official statement Malian strongman Colonel Assimi Goita assured the Malian people and the international community that "efforts are underway" to secure the release of all those still being held in Mali.

The archbishop of Bamako, Jean Zerbo, confirmed Narvaez's release, adding that she was "doing well".

"We prayed a lot for her release. I thank the Malian authorities and other good people who made this release possible," the archbishop said.

Her brother, Edgar Narvaez, also confirmed her release in a brief conversation with AFP.

"She is in good health, thank God. They sent me pictures and she looks well," he said.

Narvaez was taken hostage on February 7, 2017, at Koutiala, some 400 kilometres (250 miles) east of the Malian capital Bamako, while working as a missionary there.

There were irregular reports about her over the years, including at the beginning of 2021, when two Europeans who managed to escape captivity reported that she was well.

Then in March, her brother received proof that she was still alive, passed on from the Red Cross.

It was a letter written in capital letters "because she always used capital letters" containing the names of their parents and ending with her signature, he told AFP earlier this year.

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.