The Swedish government announced that a Swedish national, held hostage by Al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) since 2011, was released on Monday, June 26. The hostage was kidnapped along with two other men (one of South African and one of Dutch nationality), who were freed in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
In a press release, Swedish authorities attributed the hostage's release to cooperation between the Swedish foreign ministry, police, and "foreign governments."
AQIM has taken a number of Westerners hostage in the past decade, however kidnappings have decreased since the French military deployed troops to Mali in 2013.
Mali has been under a state of emergency since November 2015, when armed men stormed the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, leaving at least 20 people dead (including 14 foreign nationals). The attack was later claimed by militant group Al-Mourabitoun, in conjunction with AQIM. The state of emergency was most recently extended in April 2017 (currently in effect through October). On June 9, the United States Embassy in Mali had issued a warning concerning an "increased threat" of terrorist attacks in Mali, notably locations frequented by Westerners.
The security environment in Mali remains complex, particularly in the north and central regions.
Due to the underlying terrorist and kidnapping threats prevalent in the country, all those present in Mali are advised to remain discreet regarding personal details, particularly information concerning nationality, employment, family, etc. Individuals are also advised to avoid public events and places frequented by Westerners, to remain vigilant at all times (especially in local markets, now used by terrorists as recruitment grounds), and to report any suspicious objects or behavior to the authorities. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to travel.
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