Dutch hostage freed from Mali militants thanks French troops

AP News
Posted: Apr 09, 2015 1:01 PM
Dutch hostage freed from Mali militants thanks French troops

AMSTERDAM (AP) — A Dutch train driver held for more than three years by Islamic militants said Thursday he stayed fit during his captivity by working out with improvised equipment and ate pasta so often that he doesn't want to see another plate of it any time soon.

Sjaak Rijke also thanked the French special forces troops who rescued him on Monday in northern Mali, according to a written statement distributed by the Dutch foreign ministry.

Rijke is now getting reacquainted with his partner, Tilly, at an undisclosed location.

He said his years in captivity had been physically and mentally grueling, but that he had generally been treated well "apart from a few incidents." He did not elaborate.

"Life in the desert is tough," he said. "Food is often scarce and therefore not varied. I don't want to see pasta again for a while."

He said he lost a couple of kilograms (pounds) while in captivity but was in generally good physical shape thanks to working out when he could.

It remains unclear who was holding Rijke, but the Dutchman appeared in a video posted in November by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.

The statement made no mention of who his captors were or what demands, if any, they made.

Rijke said his ordeal got tougher mentally the longer it dragged on.

"I don't know how much longer I could have endured it," he said. "So I want to express my huge gratitude to the French elite troops who freed me."

Rijke, who was abducted from a hostel in Timbuktu in November 2011, said his rescue early Monday "was a very hectic and scary moment, but I'm alive and I'm free!"

His statement made no mention of Swede Johan Gustafsson and South African Stephen Malcolm who were abducted along with him. A German died in the attack.