A French aid worker who was kidnapped in the West African country of Mali has been released after almost four years in captivity, the Malian president’s office announced Thursday.
Armed Islamist extremists kidnapped Sophie Pétronin in the city of Gao in December 2016. Pétronin, now 75, was running a charity for children suffering from malnutrition. Malian politician Soumaïla Cissé was also released after being held for nearly seven months, the country’s president’s office said in a tweet.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron was “immensely relieved” to learn of Pétronin’s release, according to a statement issued by the French government.
“The President of the Republic especially thanks the Malian authorities for this release,” the statement said. “He assures them of France’s entire will to support Mali in the fight it is waging with perseverance against terrorism.” Pétronin’s nephew, Lionel Granouillac, told CNN affiliate BFM TV on Tuesday that his aunt had been released after being held captive for 1,381 days. It was only on Thursday that the governments of Mali and France officially confirmed she and Cissé had been freed. Pétronin’s son, Sébastien Chadaud-Pétronin, was in the country’s capital, Bamako, ready to greet his mother. He told France 24 on Tuesday that he was fearful about what state he would find her in. “I expect to find someone sick, very weak. I hope she can still see, I don’t think she can stand,” he said. “No matter what state she is in, I know she is still lucid. I am looking forward to seeing her again.”