Switzerland says civilians being held hostage in Mali have been killed by prisoners

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Switzerland’s foreign ministry said on Friday that a Swiss woman held hostage in Mali had been killed by an Islamist group.

The ministry said it had been informed by French authorities that the hostages had been “killed by kidnappers from the Islamist terrorist organization Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam Muslimeen about a month ago”.

The group, known as JNIM, is Mali’s branch of al-Qaeda.

Switzerland’s foreign minister has condemned the killing of hostage-taker Beatrice Stoeckli, whose release his country had quietly sought to negotiate since she was abducted four years ago.

“It was with great sadness that I heard about the death of our fellow citizens,” Ignazio Cassis said in a statement. “I condemn this cruel act and express my deepest sympathy to the relatives.”

Cassis said the exact circumstances of her murder were still unclear.

“The information about the killing was obtained by the French authorities from the recently released French hostages,” the ministry said.

French aid worker Sophie Petronin was released along with Italian cleric Pierluigi Maccalli and Nicola Chiacchio and prominent Malian politician Soumaila Cisse this week, days after the Malian government freed nearly 200 Islamic militants in an apparent prisoner exchange.

>> Mali: The behind-the-scenes negotiations to free Sophie Pétronin

Stoeckli, a Christian missionary, and at least four other foreign hostages were also held by JNIM and its staff. The fate of others is not immediately known.

The Swiss Foreign Ministry said it was trying to find out more about the circumstances of the killing and where her remains were.

(AP)

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