A Swiss woman was kidnapped from her home in Mali for the second time. Apparently, the Islamist militants who had abducted her in 2012 had warned her about “proselytizing for Christianity” before letting her go.
The Swiss woman, identified as Beatrice Stockly, was abducted in the night from Thursday to Friday in Timbuktu in northwestern Mali. In her late 40s, Stockly has been living in the region for several years, and has been abducted in the past. In 2012, Stockly was in the custody of al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), an Islamist terror group active in the region. The group had held her hostage for nine days, before letting her go, after mediation from the neighboring country of Burkina Faso.
There are conflicting reports about the abduction. Some reports indicate armed militants scaled a wall to her house and broke open her front door to forcibly gain entry and abduct Stockly. There appear to be several footprints in the yard that are claimed as proof of the forced entry. According to ABC News, there was a lot of commotion during the late night abduction, but none of her neighbors alerted the security forces.
Meanwhile, several other reports cite local authorities who claim armed men simply showed up at the door of the Swiss woman. Interestingly, authorities add that the militants merely knocked on the woman’s door, who opened it, and thereafter walked out with the group as their abductee. Merely confirming the fact that a Swiss citizen living in Mali has been kidnapped, army spokesman Souleymane Maiga said,
“I confirm that a European woman was kidnapped in Timbuktu at 3.30 a.m. (0330 GMT). A neighbor alerted the security forces around 6 a.m.”
According to DB Techno, the militants arrived at the Swiss woman’s house in four vehicles. While men from one of the vehicle approached the residence, the three vehicles secured the area from a distance.
The Swiss foreign ministry said it was aware of a suspected kidnapping of a female Swiss national in Mali and added that it was in contact with her relatives as well as local authorities. The ministry even confirmed that its crisis management center had “formed a task force immediately after the kidnapping incident was announced,” and that it was “committed to achieving the release of the Swiss citizen in good health,” reported Yahoo.
No one has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, but it is quite likely that the terror group who had abducted the Swiss woman in 2012 could have taken her hostage yet again. Before her release last time, the Islamist terror outfit had warned Stockly about “proselytizing for Christianity.” The woman claims to be a social activist. Despite repeated threats from the terror group, she had refused to leave the region. Many have admired her courage and claim she is the last Westerner living in the legendary desert city. Stockly refused to move, even when the city fell to Islamist Ansar Dine rebels.
Though the Swiss woman wasn’t harmed during her last abduction, she was strictly warned that she would be risking execution if she tried to return to Timbuktu, a threat she has stoically defied.
Much of northern Mali had been under the control of jihadist groups linked to al-Qaeda, including AQIM. Though poorly armed and scattered, the various terror groups regularly took advantage of the terrain, before being driven out by an international military intervention that is still ongoing. A few of these terror groups continue spreading terror with a series of attacks and roadside bombings last year. These groups mostly target foreigners.
As France continues to fight militants in Mali and elsewhere in the desert region, the fate of the kidnapped Swiss woman remains unknown as the militants haven’t made any demands.
[Photo by Romaric Ollo Hien / Getty Images]