Body of Swiss hostage killed by Al Qaeda affiliate recovered in Mali

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The remains of a Swiss woman who was killed while held hostage by an Al Qaeda affiliate group in Mali have been recovered, government officials said Wednesday.

Switzerland’s Foreign Ministry announced in a statement that DNA tests confirmed the body of the hostage — identified in reports as Beatrice Stoeckli, a Christian missionary who was kidnapped by the Islamist group in 2016 — has been formally identified.

“Sadly, we now have definitive evidence that the woman who was held hostage is dead,” said Switzerland’s foreign minister, Ignazio Cassis. “But I am also relieved that we can return the woman’s remains to her family and I would like to pass on my deepest condolences to them.”

Cassis said in October the ministry was told by French authorities that Stoeckli had been killed by her captors from the jihadist group Jama’at Nusrat Al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) about a month earlier, but her body was not located.

Stoeckli, who lived in Mali for years working with local children, was first taken hostage in 2012, but was released days later. In 2016, she was kidnapped a second time and later killed, Swissinfo reported.

Cassis noted Stoeckli’s case during a visit to Mali in February and called for authorities to clarify the circumstances of her slaying. Stoeckli’s body will be sent to Switzerland once it’s released by Malian authorities, he said.

Officials in Mali informed Switzerland days ago that the remains of a person believed to be Stoeckli had been handed over to them. The DNA samples were then sent to Switzerland for analysis and its Institute of Forensic Medicine confirmed the match, Cassis said.

“I also wish to thank the Malian authorities for their assistance in helping to identify the body,” his statement continued.

The Foreign Ministry declined to release additional details for “data protection reasons” and due to pending criminal proceedings, Cassis said.

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