Italian Jehovah’s Witnesses seized by jihadists in Mali freed

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An elderly Italian couple and their son, who were kidnapped by jihadists in Mali in May 2022, have been released, Italy’s government has said.

The three were in good health, and due to return to Rome, it added.

The family were Jehovah’s Witnesses who were reportedly planning to set up a church when they were abducted from their home outside the southern city of Koutiala.

Their domestic worker, a Togolese national, was abducted along with them.

The worker’s fate is unclear.


The release of the couple, Rocco Langone and Maria Donata Caivano, and their son, Giovanni Langone, was secured by Italy’s intelligence agency and the foreign ministry, thanks to their contacts with community leaders and Mali’s intelligence agencies, the Italian government said.

The statement gave no further details of the circumstances around their release.

The family had lived in an area that was heavily infiltrated by jihadists, and the kidnappings were carried out by a faction linked to an al-Qaeda affiliate known as the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JNIM), it said.

The couple are reported to be in their 60s and their son in his 40s.

Mali has been hit by an insurgency for more than a decade, with jihadists often kidnapping foreign nationals for ransom or to demand the release of fellow fighters.

The military seized power in a coup in 2021, accusing the government of failing to do enough to quell the insurgency.

It expelled French troops and UN peacekeepers and brought in Russia’s Wagner group to help fight the jihadists, but there is no sign of the insurgency ending.

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