Former French hostage Sophie Pétronin disappears again in Mali

French humanitarian worker 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,

Pétronin, 76, who ran a charity for malnourished and orphaned children in the desert city of Gao until his abduction in 2016, quietly returned to Mali in March. The West African nation refused to grant him a visa for his return, but he eventually managed to enter the country by taking a land route from Senegal, RFI reported.

Pétronin was reportedly unhappy in Switzerland, where she had been living since her release from captivity in October 2020, and 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 they were eager to be reunited with their adopted daughter.

Pétronin had always said that he planned to return to Mali to continue his work.

More than seven months after her return, Malian police issued a search notice for Pétronin on October 29, asking the police to arrest her and “escort” her to the capital, Bamako.

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

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

French diplomatic sources have said they do not interpret the search notice as a “hostile act” by the Malian authorities, despite strained relations with France.

( Jowhar with REUTERS)

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