The French foreign ministry has evidence from early March that French hostage Sophie Pétronin is alive, her son said on France Info radio on Wednesday. The sick aid worker was abducted by armed men in Mali in 2016.
“The ministry cited evidence from early March, without giving details. It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing, ”explained Sébastien Chadaud-Pétronin to the French broadcaster.
“We are relieved to know that she is alive,” he said, adding: “We feel that there is no way to get Sophie Pétronin out of this hell.”
Armed men kidnapped Pétronin, who ran an organization helping orphans in Mali, on December 24, 2016, in Gao, in the north of the country.
The aid worker, who had cancer and suffered from malaria at the time of her abduction, was last seen in a video released by her kidnappers in June 2018, in which she spoke to her son and called the French President Emmanuel Macron for help. Her health appears to have deteriorated considerably.
>> The interview: Sophie Pétronin’s son, French hostage in Mali, says she is still alive
Macron had previously declared that France was working “relentlessly” to locate Pétronin.
Initially, no group claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of the Frenchwoman. Then, in July 2017, the main jihadist alliance in the Sahel, a group linked to Al-Qaeda, released a video showing six foreigners kidnapped in Mali and Burkina Faso between 2011 and 2017, with Pétronin among them.
In 2012, northern Mali fell under the control of jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda who exploited a rebel uprising led by Tuaregs, although the Islamists were largely ousted by a military operation led by France in January 2013 .
Since then, jihadists have continued to launch numerous attacks against civilians and the army, as well as against French and United Nations forces stationed there.