French Special Forces have freed a Dutch man Sjaak Rijke who was reportedly seized by gunmen from a hotel in Mali’s city of Timbuktu, along with two other men in 2011.
The Dutchman is believed to have been seized by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and appeared in a video by the militants in November. BBC reported that French President Francois Hollande said that Mr. Rijke had been found by chance in a dawn raid in northern Mali.
According to the French defense ministry, Mr. Rijke has been transferred "safe and sound" early on Monday to a temporary base in Tessalit adding that a number of militants had been killed and others captured in the operation against AQIM militants. Mr Rijke was said to be in a good condition considering the circumstances.
Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said this is fantastic news for Sjaak and his family stressing that "I'm happy and relieved that this terrible period of uncertainty and sadness has been brought to an end."
The BBC's Hugh Schofield in Paris says that it seems that Mr Rijke was discovered by chance.Meanwhile, French troops had launched a dawn attack on a militant group in northern Mali.BBC correspondent says that after the fighting was over, they realised that the group had been holding Mr Rijke.
There has been no word about the fate of the other two men captured with him. AQIM took a number of Western hostages before the French military deployed its forces in January 2013. BBC says France has since created a counter-insurgency force of several thousand troops to track down Islamist militants in Mali.