Fmr. hostage Sjaak Rijke ready to pick up where he left off

Sjaak Rijke (Picture: Twitter/@KvanOosterom)Sjaak Rijke (Picture: Twitter/@KvanOosterom)

"As everyone will understand, I am overjoyed to be free again after more than three years and I eagerly look forward to the reunion with my family, friends and colleagues." Sjaak Rijke says in a statement released via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, NOS reports.

Rijke was kidnapped by a terrorist group in November 2011 while he was on vacation in Timbuktu with his wife. He was held hostage for about 3 and a half years. Last week Rijke was rescued by French special forces, who were surprised to find him during a military operation.

The 3.5 years he spent as a hostage in Mali was hard on Rijke, both physically and mentally. "Life in the desert is hard, food is often scarce and one-sided. I won't be able to look at pasta for the time being." he writes. Rijke managed to survive his ordeal relatively healthy. He managed to keep his body in shape with improvised exercises when conditions allowed it.

Keeping his mental condition stable was more difficult. "Mentally it became harder as time went on, hoping for a positive outcome obviously declined. I do not know how much longer I could have made it." Rijke writes. He expresses his eternal gratitude to the French troops that freed him. "It was a very hectic and anxious time, but I am alive and free!"

Rijke also thanks the Dutch and Malian authorities for their efforts in freeing him and supporting his wife and family. He now looks forward to picking up where he left off. At this stage he is not up for a large celebration in Woerden, but maybe at a later time. "The time in captivity and these last days in freedom were quite hectic and took their toll." he writes. "I hope that everyone can keep the peace and that we can organize a grand reunion at a later time, so that I can also enjoy it."

He also asks the media to let him, his family and friends be for the time being. So that they can rest and recover.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs report that Minister Bert Koenders had an extended conversation with Rijke and his wife on Thursday. Koenders congratulated Rijke on his freedom.