Switzerland says Swiss hostage in Mali killed

GENEVA (AP) — Switzerland’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday that a Swiss woman who was held hostage in Mali has been killed by an extremist group.

The ministry said it was informed by French authorities that the hostage had been “killed by kidnappers of the extremist terrorist organisation 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 Ignazio Cassis condemned the killing of the hostage, Beatrice Stoeckli, whose release his country had quietly been trying to negotiate since she was kidnapped four years ago.

“It was with great sadness that I learnt of the death of our fellow citizen,” 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 killing were unclear.

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

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

File photo shows Swiss hostage Beatrice Stoeckli on arrival by helicopter from Timbuktu, Mali, after being handed over by militant group Ansar Dine. PHOTO: AP