Swiss hostage returns home

15th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

Werner Greiner arrives in Zurich after being held hostage by Al-Qaeda for six months in Mali.

Zurich -- A Swiss man returned home Tuesday after being held hostage for six months in Mali at by a group which beheaded a Briton, the Swiss foreign ministry said.

Werner Greiner, 57, who was freed on Sunday, arrived in Zurich accompanied by his wife and Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey.

The lawyer flew from Malian capital Bamako overnight and arrived in Paris where he met his wife Gabriella Burco, foreign ministry spokesman Jean-Philippe Jutzi said.

Burco had been held hostage alongside him but was released in April.

They flew on to Switzerland, arriving early Tuesday.

Greiner was freed in Mali's northern desert region of Gao after clashes there between government soldiers and Al-Qaeda fighters, Malian officials said.

He was the last Western hostage held by a group calling itself Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Earlier in July an official in northern Mali negotiating with the kidnappers said Greiner was in poor condition.

Swiss officials credited Mali President Amadou Toumani Toure with securing his release and insisted Switzerland neither negotiated nor paid a ransom for him.

Greiner was kidnapped in January along with Burco, and fellow tourists Marianne Petzold of Germany and British national Edwin Dyer in Niger, near the border with Mali.

Burco and Petzold were released on 22 April, along with two Canadian diplomats kidnapped in December.

But on 3 June the Al-Qaeda group announced it had beheaded Dyer because London would not release radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada from a British prison. It was the first time AQIM killed a Western hostage.

Following Dyer's killing Mali intensified efforts to find the Al-Qaeda militants with President Toure announcing war on the group.

AQIM emerged from and includes members of the former Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, a radical Islamic movement in Algeria that battled the secular state.

Since 2006, it has sought to enlist extremists in Tunisia and Morocco and extended activities deep into the Sahara and beyond to the Sahel nations of west Africa, where Dyer was captured and killed.

AFP / Expatica

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