West & Central Africa

Abducted Christian Missionaries appear in Jihadi video in Mali

Three kidnapped Christian missionaries have surfaced in an Al Qaeda video posted  on Saturday 1 July by Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (the Group to Support Islam and Muslims). It provides proof many years after their abduction that they were still alive at least hours before the French President, Emmanel Macron visited Mali.

The Colombian nun, Gloria Argoti, is seen for the first time since her kidnap on 7 February. Other hostages, introduced by a narrator in the video, are Beatrice Stockly who was kidnapped in January 2016 in Timbuktu. Ken Elliott, 82, Australian surgeon, was kidnapped in January 2016, along with his wife, Jocelyn, on the same day that Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) killed 29 people, including six Canadian Christians, in Ouagadougou.

Stephen McGowan, another abductee, spoke in the video: “It’s a long time to be away … Until when do you think this will come to an end? Now we’re making a new video, but I don’t know what to say. It’s all been said in the past. It’s all been said in previous videos I’ve made.”

Iulian Ghergut, kidnapped in Burkina Faso in 2015, and French aid worker Sophie Pétronin, abducted in Gao in December 2016, headed an organization caring for malnourished children.

Johan Gustafsson, 42, was freed last week, after six years in captivity.

In the video, Ken Elliot, who was held in captivity while the terror group released his wife said:  “This video is to ask various governments, in particular the Australian government and Burkina government, to do what they can to help negotiate my release.”
Elliot then addressed his family saying, “I just want to say, again, I love you all and I appreciate all your prayers and all your cares. I look forward to one day being reunited.”

Sophie Pétronin, in the video, also said, “I demand from the French government, and French President Emanuel Macron, to do everything to get me out of this extremely difficult situation,” she said.

The video was released by the Islamic terror group a day before the French President, Emmanuel Macron, met with five leaders of the Sahel region in Mali. The French President said a 5000-man anti-terrorist army will be set up to combat AQIM and Boko Haram before the end of the year. The European union and the French government will provide part funding for the anti-terrorism force.