Colombian nun held hostage by al Qaeda-linked extremists in Mali since 2017 is freed

A Colombian nun who was kidnapped more than four years ago by extremists in Mali has been released.

Gloria Narvaez was abducted in February 2017 near the country's border with Burkina Faso.

"May God bless you, may God bless Mali. I thank you very much."

She added 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," she said.

"And I ask forgiveness from all the Malians, all the people who were not well perhaps (because of me)."

Kidnapping has proved lucrative for Islamist groups in West Africa's Sahel region, where they are waging an expanding insurgency against national armies, French forces and UN peacekeepers.

The group that took Ms Narvaez is still holding several other hostages, 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.

But the insurgents soon regrouped in the desert and began launching frequent attacks on the Malian army and its allies.

The extremists have since expanded their reach deep into central Mali. 



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