Former French hostage Sophie Pétronin missing again in Mali

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French humanitarian aid Sophie Pétronin, released a year ago after four years in the hands of jihadist militants in northern Mali, is back in Mali and missing again, FRANCE 24’s sister station Radio reported on Tuesday. France Internationale (RFI).

Pétronin, 76, who ran a charity for malnourished and orphaned children in the desert town of Gao until his kidnapping in 2016, quietly returned to Mali in March. The West African nation refused to issue her a visa for her return, but she eventually managed to enter the country via a land route from Senegal, RFI reported.

Pétronin would have been unhappy in Switzerland, where she had lived since her release from captivity in October 2020, and would have wanted to return to the country where she had spent the last 20 years of her life. Sources close to the family told RFI that she wanted to find her adopted daughter.

Pétronin had always said that she planned to return to Mali to continue her work.

More than seven months after his return, the Malian police published a wanted notice against Pétronin on October 29, asking the police to apprehend him and to “escort” him to the capital Bamako.

Pétronin was reportedly last seen near Sikasso, in the south-east of the country, more than 350 km from the capital Bamako.

But sources close to Pétronin told RFI that she had not left Bamako since her return to Mali, and had never been to Sikasso. They are puzzled as to why the Malian authorities are looking for her.

French diplomatic sources said they did not interpret the wanted advice as a “hostile act” by the Malian authorities, despite strained relations with France.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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