Revealed: how former hostage Sophie Pétronin secretly returned to Mali

By Anthony Fouchard 

News emerged at the weekend that former French hostage Sophie Pétronin, 76, who was held captive for almost four years by an al-Qaeda affiliate in Mali until her release in October last year, secretly returned to the West African country in March, and has since been living with her adopted daughter in the capital Bamako. Her presence in the country was made public after the Malian authorities on Saturday issued a warrant for her arrest, for reasons that are still unclear. In this report for Mediapart, journalist Anthony Fouchard, who is close to Pétronin and her family, reveals the details of how the humanitarian worker, together with her son, succeeded in the long clandestine journey to Bamako.  


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Sophie Pétronin spent almost four years in captivity after being taken hostage in Mali on December 24th 2016 by a jihadist group affiliated to al-Qaeda. The 76-year-old humanitarian worker, who had established an NGO in the Malian town of Gao to help orphaned and abandoned children, was finally released in October last year, along with several other hostages.