BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — A Colombian nun who was kidnapped more than four years ago by al-Qaida-linked extremists in Mali has been freed, Mali’s presidency said Saturday.
Gloria Narvaez was kidnapped in February 2017 near Mali’s border with Burkina Faso.
“The presidency of Mali salutes the courage and bravery of this nun,” Mali’s presidency said in a statement.
The conditions of her release have not been revealed.
Narvaez was held by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, which had released several videos in which she asks for help from the Vatican.
Photos on the Malian presidency’s Twitter page show Narvaez in a yellow dress and scarf, holding her hands together and smiling. She is also shown meeting with Mali’s interim president President Assimi Goita.
“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,” Narvaez said in a brief statement made on state TV. “May God bless you, may God bless Mali. I thank you very much.”
She went on to say that while she was in captivity for nearly five years, she stayed in good health.
“I thank the people of Karangasso very much for their prayers and all the efforts they made to obtain my release. And I ask forgiveness from all the Malians, all the people who were not well perhaps (because of me).”
The al-Qaida-linked group is still holding several other Westerners, including an American clergyman kidnapped in Niger and a French journalist.
Mali has been trying to contain an Islamic extremist insurgency since 2012. Extremist rebels were forced from power in Mali’s northern cities with the help of a 2013 French-led military operation. However, the insurgents quickly regrouped in the desert and began launching frequent attacks on the Malian army and its allies fighting the insurgency.
The extremists have expanded their reach well into central Mali.