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Mali: Christian hostages appear in Jihadist video, including Ken Elliot

05 July 2017

Six hostages, including three missionaries, have appeared in a jihadist video, just hours before France's president Emmanuel Macron's visit to Mali - during which he agreed to help support anti-terrorist efforts in the Sahel.

The hostages, who were all abducted by jihadist groups affiliated to al-Qaeda, called on various governments to negotiate their release.

Among those on the video is 82-year-old Christian surgeon, Ken Elliott, from Australia. He was kidnapped in January 2016 along with his wife, Jocelyn, in northern Burkina Faso by the militant group, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) - Jocelyn was released one month later.

"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," Ken Elliott says in the video. Addressing his family, he adds: "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."

Also on the video is Colombian nun, Gloria Argoti, who had not been heard from after she was kidnapped on 7 February by unknown assailants in Karangasso, southern Mali. This is the first proof she is still alive. And Swiss missionary, Beatrice Stockly, was also featured - Stockly had been kidnapped in January 2016 in Timbuktu, and had also been previously abducted by jihadists in 2012.

A Romanian mining engineer, Iulian Ghergut, South African man, Stephen McGowan, and French aid worker Sophie Pétronin, the head of an NGO that works with children, were the other hostages featured in the video. "I demand from the French government, and French President Emanuel Macron, to do everything to get me out of this extremely difficult situation," Sophie says in the video.

(Stephen McGowan was captured alongside a Swedish man, Johan Gustafsson, who was freed last week six years after his abduction by al-Qaeda in Mali.)

However, there was no reference to American missionary, Jeff Woodke, kidnapped by unknown assailants in Niger in October. So far little is known, or at least being divulged, about Woodke's condition or whereabouts, other than that his captors were tracked to neighbouring Mali by Nigerien authorities.

Islamist extremism increases in the Sahel

According to the US-based monitoring group SITE, the undated video footage was posted on Saturday (1 July) by Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (also known as the Group to Support Islam and Muslims).

The jihadist network has existed since 2 March, when leaders of terrorist groups Ansar Dine, the Macina Liberation Front, al-Mourabitoun and AQIM announced their commitment to form a common platform and pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda.

AQIM, which had been based in the Sahara Desert between Mali, Niger and Algeria, has attacked West African countries and increased the spread of its attacks. In 2016, AQIM killed 19 at a beach resort in Ivory Coast and targeted Burkina Faso for the first time.

Macron addresses the fight against terrorism

On 2 July, President Macron attended a meeting with the leaders of the G5 Sahel bloc (Niger, Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania) to discuss the military force they will set up to fight jihadism, smuggling and people trafficking in the region, which spans the African continent from Senegal in the west to western Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia in the east. (The 'Sahel' describes the ecological and geographic region between the Sahara Desert and the humid and fertile savannah belt north of Africa's tropical rainforest.)

The force, which will supplement France's operation Barkhane and the UN's MINUSMA mission in Mali, will start with 5,000 troops and the G5 hope to double its numbers over time.

"It will be up to you and your armies to show that the G5 can be effective while respecting humanitarian conventions," Macron told the heads of state. "The results must be delivered to convince our partners."

Source: Open Doors; World Watch Monitor

Please pray:

  • For the six hostages featured in the video, that they would be released soon
  • That the families of the hostages would be comforted
  • That the Lord would protect believers and aid workers who may be targeted by extremists in the Sahel.

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Find out more about persecution in Mali.