Dutch ex-hostage heads home after rescue in Mali

AP News
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Posted: Apr 07, 2015 4:01 PM
Dutch ex-hostage heads home after  rescue in Mali

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — A Dutch national who was held in captivity by Islamic militants for more than three years has left Mali and is headed back home, officials said Tuesday.

Sjaak Rijke, who was abducted from a hotel in northern Mali in November 2011, flew into Mali's capital Bamako on Tuesday.

He stepped out of the plane — appearing sunburned and with a lengthy gray beard — and then met with Dutch and Malian dignitaries before leaving.

The Dutch Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday that Rijke had been reunited with his partner, Tilly. The couple would now "retreat to a location where they can recover together," it said.

The French military has said that Rijke's rescue took place at 5 a.m. Monday in far northern Mali, though there has been no word on the whereabouts of two other men who were kidnapped alongside Rijke.

French President Francois Hollande has said that some militants were killed and others captured.

It's not clear who was holding Rijke, but the Dutchman appeared in a video posted in November by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.

Some 3,000 French forces are taking part in the mission to stabilize Mali, which was overrun by al-Qaida-linked Islamic extremists until French troops came to the aid of Malian soldiers in January 2013.

Rijke was abducted by extremists in November 2011 from a hostel in Timbuktu along with Swede Johan Gustafsson and South African Stephen Malcolm. A German died in the attack. Officials in France and the Netherlands did not say whether there was any news of Gustafsson or Malcolm.

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Associated Press writer Michael Corder contributed from Amsterdam.