Last updated on September 11th, 2021 at 08:20 am
An elderly French aid worker and a top Malian politician landed in the capital Bamako to an emotional reunion with their loved ones after being released from captivity by presumed jihadists.
Mali announced the release of Frenchwoman Sophie Petronin, 75, and Malian politician Soumaila Cisse on Thursday, alongside two Italian nationals.
French President Emmanuel Macron voiced “immense relief” at the release of Petronin, and tweeted Friday that he would welcome her back to France.
Footage shared on social media showed a frail, white-robed Petronin — who was the last French citizen held hostage in the world — descending from a plane, to an emotional greeting from her son in Bamako.
Cisse, dressed in a white robe, followed her and was also embraced by loved ones before returning home to be greeted by cheering crowds. “It was a difficult period, but it has been overcome,” the 70-year-old said.
News of the hostages’ release on Thursday came after the government freed over 100 prisoners over the weekend, which sparked speculation of a prisoner swap for Petronin and Cisse.
In an unexpected development, the prime minister’s office also announced Thursday that two Italian nationals, Nicola Chiacchio and Pier Luigi Maccalli, had been freed.
It was not immediately clear whether the two had arrived in Bamako on the same flight.