After two years in detention, Italian missionary Pier Luigi Maccalli, 60, was released. He is one of the 4 hostages held by the jihadists of the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (Gsim), of the Malian Tuareg leader Iyad Ag Ghaly, whose release was announced Thursday, October 8.
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In addition to the Italian priest of the Society of African Missions (SMA), 3 former hostages were freed: the French Sophie Pétronin, the Malian opponent Soumaïla Cissé and another Italian, Nicola Chiacchio. ” The release of these personalities kidnapped by the subsidiaries of the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSim) was obtained thanks to the combined efforts “, Including intelligence services, armed forces and” partners of Mali, “said the Malian government.
Many sources say that one of the quid pro quo for this release would be the release from prison of several dozen jihadists on the weekend of October 3 to 4 and conveyed to Tessalit, in the far north of Mali. A ransom payment was also mentioned. This information was confirmed on Tuesday, October 6, by the Gsim, which, in a statement, welcomed the release of 206 jihadists in exchange for the Malian opponent Soumaïla Cissé.
Kidnapping in 2018 in Niger
The Italian priest was kidnapped on September 17, 2018 by motorcycle attackers in the village of Bamoanga, in the Tillaberi region, in southwestern Niger, where he had been on a mission for 11 years. The events took place at his home, not far from the church. The Franciscan missionary sisters of Mary, witnesses of the abduction, had been spared.
The last proof of the religious’s life was published in April 2020 by a Nigerien newspaper which had received a video of Father Maccalli in the company of the other ex-Italian hostage, Nicola Chiacchio. Since Father Maccali’s kidnapping, the Nigerien Church has launched several appeals for his release and organized times of fasting and prayer to this end.
Niger is a predominantly Muslim country where Christians represent only 1.5% of the population. It has two dioceses, Niamey and Maradi, which are part of the Episcopal Conference of Burkina Faso-Niger. The Archbishop of Niamey, Mgr Laurent Lompo, is from the department of Torodi which houses the village where the kidnapping took place.