Sophie Pétronin: Hopes rise for release of French hostage in Mali
Sophie Pétronin, 75, was abducted in Mali in December 2016 and after almost four years in detention is known as the last French hostage in the world.
Now, there are reports of her imminent release, alongside a veteran Malian politician, as part of a prisoner swap for more than 100 jihadists.
Charity worker Ms Pétronin had already evaded abduction once in disguise.
Meanwhile, ex-opposition leader and former presidential candidate Soumaïla Cissé, 70, was kidnapped in March.
Mali militant group JNIM, which is affiliated to al-Qaeda, is believed to be behind their abductions.
Authorities have been working on their release for months and are reportedly wary of any last-minute hitches. In August, Malian president Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta was overthrown by a military junta and little is known of what happened to the talks after the coup.
“It’s too soon to celebrate,” Ms Pétronin’s son Sébastien Chadaud warned. “We’ve already lived through moments like this for four years.”
Mr Chadaud was on his way to the Malian capital, Bamako, a relative said on Tuesday. “It’s really good news,” Lionel Granouillac told RTL radio.
Malian reports say about 100 jihadists detained by the military in recent operations were freed in recent days as part of a negotiated prisoner swap.
They later appeared in the northern Mali town of Tessalit, and local reports suggested both Sophie Pétronin and Soumaïla Cissé had been held in that area. Militant group JNIM claimed 206 of its prisoners had been released, Mali news website Nouvel Horizon reports.
Known as France’s last hostage held by jihadist militants, Sophie Pétronin’s cause has been almost forgotten, despite her family’s attempts to campaign for her release.