Commandos free Dutchman from Al-Qaida in Mali after 3.5 years

Sjaak Rijke
Sjaak Rijke, Dutchman held hostage by Al-Qaida in Mali, seen reading a prepared statement in a November 2014 video after three years in captivity. Sjaak Rijke, Dutchman held hostage by Al-Qaida in Mali, seen reading a prepared statement in a November 2014 video after three years in captivity

Dutchman Sjaak Rijke, who has been a captive of terrorist group Al-Qaida since November 2011, has been freed by commandos and other special forces of the French army in Mali this morning, the French Ministry of Defense announced.

According to the Ministry, Rijke was rescued at 05:00 a.m. local time during a military action. Several individuals were also arrested during this action. "The release of Mr. Rijke is a reminder of the unfailing determination of Frace against the armed terrorist groups in the Sahel region, as part of Operation Barkhane." the French Ministry of Defense writes on their website.

French minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian contacted Dutch Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert to give her the good news. Minister Bert Koenders of Foreign Affairs was also informed by his French counterpart Laurent Fabius. "This is fantastic news for Sjaak and his family." Koenders said. "I am happy and relieved that an end has come to this terrible period of uncertainty and grief."

Rijke was taken to a  base on Tessalit, where he was taken in by the Dutch embassy and Dutch soldiers. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Rijke is doing well "under the circumstances." The Netherlands has about 450 soldiers, four Apache fighting helicopters and three Chinook transport helicopters stationed in Mali for the United Nations mission Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (Minusma).

Rijke was kidnapped by the terrorist group on November 25th, 2011 while he was on holiday in Timbuktu with his wife. He was kidnapped along with a Swede and a South African. A German was shot and killed because he refused to go with the kidnappers. In September 2013 a in which Rijke was featured. In the video he, along with several other hostages, pleaded with their governments to negotiate their release.

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