French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday welcomed the release of a humanitarian aid worker who was kidnapped and held in captivity by militants in Mali for almost four years.
Sophie Petronin was abducted by a group of armed militants in December 2016 in the northeastern Malian city of Gao.
She spent 1,381 days in extremists’ custody.
Petronin has been known as the last French hostage in the world.
On Friday, the 75-year-old returned back to her country and was welcomed by her family and Macron.
A military plane brought her home.
Macron was waiting at the foot of the steps to greet her. He exchanged a few words with her but then stood aside while family members, some in tears, formed a tight huddle around Petronin, hugging her and each other.
From the Malian capital, Bamako, where she was taken after her release, she described how at one point in her captivity, she was ready to give up hope, but a small voice in her head encouraged her to go on.
She said she decided to treat her captivity as a spiritual retreat.
On Oct. 5, 2020, the Malian authorities freed more than 100 militants to secure the release of Petronin, and two Italian nationals.
It also secured the release of the country’s 70-year-old politician, Soumaila Cisse, who was also kidnapped by the militants on March 25, 2020, and freed on Oct. 6.
The insurgency in Mali has been rocking the country’s north since 2011, initiated as a separatist uprising.
The Malian authorities have been struggling to take full control over territories taken over by militant groups ever since.
This is with the military support of the French forces; which in 2013 helped to regain somewhat control over the region.