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Mali president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita vows to free remaining Western hostages
In an exclusive interview with RFI, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (IBK) says that the four Jihadists freed in exchange for the French hostage Serge Lazarevic will be hunted down by Malian, Niger and French troops. And he pledges to continue deploying efforts to free the three Western hostages still being held - South African Stephen Malcolm, Dutchman Sjaak Rijke, and Swede Johan Gustafsson.
IBK told RFI journalist Christophe Boisbouvier that the decision to have the French hostage released was taken at the Security in Africa summit held in Paris in December 2013.
“It was a decision not taken lightly, but one that had to be made ; a decision which means there is no French hostage left in the Sahel today,” said IBK.
He added that it also allows soldiers sent from France to the region to fight the Jihadists without being hindered by the threat to one of its nationals.
“May no-one underestimate how determined we are to track down those people who are guilty of such ignominious acts, wherever they are,” said IBK. “If I were them, I would have chosen to stay in jail.”
One of the four Jihadists just released killed prison warden Kola Sofara in Bamako. IBK told RFI that he had promised Sofara’s family that he would rest in peace very soon and that his death will not have been in vain.
He added that he did not hesitate to free the four in exchange for Lazarevic however difficult that decision looked.
He did not deny that French President François Hollande and his Niger counterpart Mahamadou Issoufou had been behind the move.
President Issoufou and he are in regular contact and face the same security challenges, IBK explained.
He then spoke of Stephen Malcolm and his two colleagues, who were abducted in Timbuktu in 2011.
“ We have said in the communiqué we issued after the release of Lazarevic that we remain concerned by their fate and that we will do everything in our power, absolutely everything [to free them]”, IBK concluded.