Sat 10 October 2020:
A French aid worker held in Mali for four years by militants has revealed that she converted to Islam during here captivity, according to French media reports.
Sophie Petronin arrived at Villacoublay airport, southwest of Paris on Friday, where she was welcomed by President Emmanuel Macron.
In a Twitter post, Macron said he and the French people were delighted to see Petronin. ”Welcome home!” he said.
“My greatest joy today is knowing that my assistant was able to continue working without me. For Mali, I will pray, implore Allah’s blessings and mercy, because I am a Muslim. You say Sophie, but you have Mariam in front of you,” Petronin was quoted by French daily Le Point as saying.
The 75-year-old humanitarian worker was kidnapped by an armed group in northern Mali’s Gao region in December 2016. Seven months later she appeared in a video published by the group calling itself Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Before her abduction, since 2004 Petronin had run the Swiss charity Association Aid in Gao.
“I hung on – I prayed a lot because I had a lot of time,” Petronin told reporters at the French embassy in Bamako prior to her return. “I transformed detention … into a spiritual retreat, if one can say that.”
Her release came after a military junta ousted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and promised to win the war against terrorism in Mali.
Despite the presence of French and UN peacekeeping forces in Mali, armed groups are still very active in the West African country.
Despite her experience as a hostage, Petronin says she wishes to return to Mali to continue her charity work helping children in the West African country.
“I made a commitment to the children. For four years I haven’t seen how the programmes are working,” Petronin said of her work with orphaned and malnourished children. “I will go to France, to Switzerland, and then I will come back to see what’s happening here [Mali].”
Photo: Sophie Petronin arrived back in France on Friday, where she was greeted at Villacoublay airport by President Emmanuel Macron.
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