Jihadists freed by Mali, the great unknown

In at least three places, the release of four hostages in Mali, Thursday, October 8, was celebrated: on the tarmac of the Villacoublay air base, near Paris, where Sophie Pétronin’s family came to wait for him the next day. ; in Bamako, around the residence of Soumaïla Cissé, the freed Malian opposition leader; and somewhere in the desert, near the border with Algeria, where the Tuareg leader Iyad Ag Ghali was giving a banquet to celebrate the jihadists that the junta in power in Mali had let go.

→ ANALYSIS. How Sophie Pétronin’s release in Mali became possible

On the side of Soumaïla Cissé, “The day of his release, we received friends until five in the morning”, specifies his wife joined by The cross. “My husband is fine. He was keen to meditate first on the grave of his bodyguard who was killed during his kidnapping six months ago. Then, he went to offer his condolences to the families of the members of his party who died of the coronavirus, during his captivity. “

“All of Bamako remembers the attacks on the Terrasse or the Radisson”

But it is the image of the “banquet”, available on social networks, that most moved Aimé, a Christian Malian from Bamako: “Iyad Ag Ghali showed his strength with this couscous and these grapes that made you want. He taunted the State of Mali by treating all these ex-prisoners involved in attacks, like those of the Radisson Blu or La Terrasse, which all of Bamako remembers. They are very dangerous individuals. “

More than 200 prisoners were freed by the junta and taken by plane to the north of the country. No exact count, no precise list is available concerning them. We rely on the photos of the banquet. On one of them, Aliou Mahamane Touré. The former head of the Islamic police of Mujao, in Gao, “Was arrested in 2013, tried in 2017, released two years later, before being handed over by the French soldiers of Operation Barkhane again to the Malian authorities”, says Drissa Traoré, of the Malian Association for Human Rights (AMDH).

The other releases could not be confirmed and remain shrouded in mystery. Since that of the hostages, Drissa Traoré is working to account for the releases decided by the junta. “A year ago, there were 200 jihadists detained in Bamako central prison. Last year, eleven were tried, this year four, including two in absentia ”, he recalls.

“The important thing was the release of Soumaïla Cissé”

The scenario of the outcome, almost a week later, seems relatively clear to Serge Michailof, author of Africanistan (1). “It was Iyad Ag Ghaly, a Tuareg leader affiliated with Al-Qaida, who negotiated with the Malian junta. He is quite close to the Algerian security services and has spent a long time in Saudi Arabia. The important thing was the release of Soumaïla Cissé. Sophie Pétronin was incidental in the negotiations ”, he said.

→ READ ALSO. The ex-hostage in Mali Sophie Pétronin, a humanitarian carried by faith

Fulani leader Amadou Koufa, also attached to Al-Qaida, active in the center and the south of the country, is not affected by the agreement, according to Serge Michailof, and has not seen his supporters released. As for the forces claiming to be Daesh, they do not intend to negotiate and are active in the region of the three borders (Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso) where “It seems that currently the French soldiers of Barkhane are concentrating their efforts to neutralize them”, he adds.

“Double language, double face”

The ruling junta in Bamako made the bet of negotiation with Iyad Ag Ghaly, the only one ready to hear the Malian soldiers, even if he had said that he would only compromise “The end of the racist and arrogant occupation of the French crusaders”. The Malian soldiers had to be helped for this dialogue by Iman Mahmoud Dicko, who can count on three ministers in the government.

“Subtle and clever, he is not an extremist, even if it was he who torpedoed the family code a few years ago”, summarizes Serge Michailof. Since Bamako, Aimé is less optimistic: “These Muslim leaders have a double talk, a double face. They are also driven by their financial interests, and there may be some in these releases. Their goal will always be for their religion to be truly applied in Mali. “

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The fate of the hostages

With Sophie Pétronin and Soumaïla Cissé Father Pier Luigi Maccalli, abducted in 2018, and Nicola Chiacchio, abducted in February 2019, were released.

Sophie Pétronin indicated that during her detention, Béatrice Stöckli, a missionary from Basel, was dead. She worked in Timbuktu and was kidnapped four years ago.

A Colombian nun Gloria Cecilia Argoti, seen on a video with Sophie Pétronin, would still be alive. She was forcibly taken away on February 7, 2017 by armed men who entered the grounds of her congregation in Karangasso.

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