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Tags: Mali | Hostage Return

Former French Hostage Returns to Mali without Visa

Former French Hostage Returns to Mali without Visa

Wednesday, 03 November 2021 11:01 AM

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Malian authorities say they are actively searching for a French woman who spent four years as an al-Qaida hostage and who now has returned to the West African country despite being denied a visa.

Sophie Petronin, 76, spent years working in Mali before her 2016 abduction and apparently crossed a land border back into the country in March, about five months after she was freed.

French and Malian authorities have both expressed dismay about her decision to return, fearing for her safety.

An Oct. 29 message distributed to Malian police that was obtained by The Associated Press indicated that Petronin was headed toward the town of Sikasso. Authorities called for her to be brought back to Bamako if located.

“Sophie (Petronin) is wanted by the gendarmerie. And as it is an investigation, I do not want to talk about the reason for this search, but the judicial authorities have many questions to ask her,” said Amadou Sangho at the Ministry of Internal Security.

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal also expressed alarm about Petronin's return to Mali, where foreigners remain at risk of being abducted.

“We deplore the return of Sophie Petronin to Mali. It’s a form of irresponsibility toward her own security and that of security of our troops.”

“When we have citizens who are taken hostage, it is our troops who save them, at a risk to their own lives," he added. "There were soldiers who were killed in operations to save hostages imprisoned in foreign countries. You have to have respect for our soldiers.”

In an interview with the French news outlet Mediapart, Petronin said she has been in Mali since March. She said she had crossed the land border with Senegal into Mali after the Malian Embassy in Switzerland refused to issue her a visa.

After her release, Petronin said she had converted to Islam while in captivity and called her detention “a spiritual retreat.” She asked to be called by the name Mariam, not Sophie, and said she had even received a message from her son while held by her al-Qaida captors.

Associated Press writers Angela Charlton in Paris and Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal contributed.

© Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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Malian authorities say they are actively searching for a French woman who spent four years as an al-Qaida hostage and who now has returned to the West African country despite being denied a visa.Sophie Petronin, 76, spent years working in Mali before her 2016 abduction and...
Mali,Hostage Return
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2021-01-03
Wednesday, 03 November 2021 11:01 AM
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