8 January 2016

Mali: Swiss Missionary Abducted for Second Time in Timbuktu

A Swiss citizen known for professing her Christian faith in Mali has been kidnapped for the second time in four years. The Swiss Foreign Ministry said it had warned her of staying in the West African country.

Armed men on Friday abducted Swiss citizen Beatrice Stockly from her home in the northern Malian city of Timbuktu, marking the second time the missionary had been kidnapped in four years, according to Swiss and Malian sources.

The German cabinet has approved the deployment of hundreds of Bundeswehr troops to Mali. The German army is also expanding its training mission for Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in northern Iraq.

"I confirm that a European woman was kidnapped in Timbuktu at 3:30 a.m. (03:30 GMT). A neighbor alerted the security forces around 6 a.m.," said Souleymane Maiga, a Malian army spokesperson.

The Swiss Foreign Ministry on Friday also issued as statement, saying it was "aware of the apparent kidnapping of a Swiss woman in Mali."

Swiss authorities said they "formed a task force immediately after the kidnapping incident was announced," adding that it was "committed to achieving the release of the Swiss citizen in good health."

In 2012, militants kidnapped Stockly from her home in Timbuktu, after which she was held by the Ansar Dine rebel group, known for its affiliations with Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). After two weeks in rebel captivity, she was handed over to a special forces unit from Burkina Faso.

However, Stockly was released on condition that she never return to Timbuktu to proselytize, reported Swiss news agency SDA.

"After the kidnapping of 2012, the ministry had pointed out to the affected Swiss national the high personal risk in Mali ... and strongly discouraged her from another stay in Mali," the Swiss Foreign Ministry said.

Following a military coup in 2012, Tuareg and Islamist rebels formed a loose alliance during a campaign that resulted in the capture of large swathes of Mali's northern desert, including Timbuktu.

The rebel forces were pushed back in 2013 following a French-led military intervention. France maintains a counterterrorism force in Barkhane with some 3,500 troops. The UN also has a force of 10,000 peacekeepers stationed in the West African country.

ls/cmk (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)

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