Dutch Hostage Free After Years in Mali
Sjaak Rijke was rescued by French special forces
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 8, 2015 3:51 AM CDT
Released Dutch hostage Sjaak Rijke smiles after arriving by airplane in Bamako, Mali, yesterday.   (AP Photo/Harouna Traore)
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(Newser) – A Dutchman who was held in captivity by Islamic militants for more than three years has left Mali and is headed back home, officials say. Sjaak Rijke, who was abducted from a hotel in Timbuktu, northern Mali, in November 2011, flew into Mali's capital Bamako yesterday after being rescued by French special forces. He stepped out of the plane—appearing sunburned and with a lengthy gray beard—and then met with Dutch and Malian dignitaries before leaving. The Dutch Foreign Ministry says Rijke has been reunited with his partner, Tilly, and the couple will now "retreat to a location where they can recover together."

The French military says Rijke's rescue took place at 5am Monday in far northern Mali, though there has been no word on the whereabouts of two other men who were kidnapped alongside Rijke. French President Francois Hollande says some militants were killed and others captured. It's not clear who was holding Rijke, but the Dutchman appeared in a video posted in November by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Rijke was abducted by extremists from a hostel in Timbuktu along with Swede Johan Gustafsson and South African Stephen Malcolm. A German tourist died in the attack. Officials have not said whether there's any news of Gustafsson or Malcolm.