Al-Qaeda releases Swedish hostage after almost six years

Johan Gustafsson was kidnapped in November 2011 during a motorcycle trip in Mali, along with two people from South Africa and the Netherlands.

FILE: Swede Johan Gustafsson (L), South African-Briton Stephen Malcom (C) and Dutch national Sjaak Rijke (R) held captive by al-Qaeda. Picture: AFP

STOCKHOLM - A Swedish citizen held hostage by al-Qaeda militants for nearly six years has been released, the Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

Johan Gustafsson, 42, was kidnapped in November 2011 in Timbuktu, during a motorcycle trip in Mali, along with two people from South Africa and the Netherlands.

The kidnappers has earlier demanded $5 million for his release, a demand rejected by the Swedish government, according to Swedish Radio, without citing a source.

The Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the question of a ransom.

"It is with great joy I can say that Johan Gustafsson has been released and will be able to return to Sweden," Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said in a statement.

Wallstrom said "considerable efforts" were made by the Foreign Ministry, together with the police and other Swedish and foreign authorities, in order to secure Gustafsson's release.