Colombian Nun Kidnapped by al-Qaeda-linked Jihadists Released in Mali after 4 Years

A Colombian nun who was captured by Mali jihadists in 2017 was finally been released on Saturday after more than four years of captivity.

Gloria Cecilia Narvaez, 59, was kidnapped by the Macina Liberation Front, an al-Qaeda-linked group, in February 2017 near the border with Burkina Faso. She was picked up by jihadists while she was working as a missionary in the area near the border. She had worked there as a missionary for nearly six years in the area with three other nuns, according to reports.

Colombian nun
Colombian nun held hostage in Mali since 2017 has been freed Twitter

Nun's Courage and Bravery

Narvaez has thanked the authorities for making her release a possibility.

"I first thank God, who is the light and the peace, I thank the Malian authorities, the president for all the efforts made so that I am free," she said in a brief statement made on state television.

"I am very happy, I stayed healthy for five years, thank God," she added. She also said, "May God bless Mali".

Photos posted by the Malian presidency on Saturday showed the Franciscan nun meeting with interim president Assimi Goita, dressed in yellow robes and a headscarf, reported the BBC.

A statement released by the president's office said her release came after more than four-and-a-half years of "combined effort of several intelligences services".

It also praised Narvaez's "courage and bravery".

Her colleagues have also revealed that Narvaez had offered the jihadists to take her instead of the other younger nuns that used to work with. "She is a woman of a very particular human quality, down to earth ... moved by the love of the poor," her colleague Sister Carmen Isabel Valencia said.

Concerning Reports of the Nun's Health

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, according to AFP.

Then in March, her brother received a letter passed on from the Red Cross. It was written in capital letters "because she always used capital letters," contained the names of their parents, and ended with her signature, he told AFP earlier this year.

Growing Islamist Insurgency in Mali

Mali has been struggling since 2012 to contain violence linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL-affiliated groups.

According to media reports, the fighters have now expanded their operations from their strongholds in the country's desert north to its center as well as neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Kidnappings in particular have become more common in the former French colony as the security crisis has deepened, reported the BBC.

In April, a French journalist was abducted in northern Mali.

In a hostage video, Olivier Dubois said the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM), the largest alliance of armed groups in the Sahel, had kidnapped him, reported Al Jazeera.

In July, gunmen kidnapped three Chinese nationals and two Mauritanians from a construction site in southwestern Mali.