Italian Jehovah’s Witness Hostages Held by JNIM Militants Released

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What to Know:

Three Italian Jehovah’s Witness missionaries who were taken hostage by the al-Qaeda-linked JNIM militant group in Mali back in May 2022 have been released, according to a statement by the Italian government. The exact circumstances surrounding their release remain unknown.

What Happened:

Elderly couple Rocco Langone and Maria Donata Caivano, and their son, Giovanni Langone, were kidnapped from their home in the outskirts Koutiala, southeast the Malian capital of Bamako on May 19, 2022.

“The Langone family had been living in a community of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Koutiala for several years, and were fully integrated,” the statement said. According to the BBC, the family was planning on establishing a church in the city.

“The family’s release was made possible thanks to the intense work initiated by AISE [Italian foreign intelligence and security agency], in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, immediately after the kidnapping first happened, and in particular thanks to AISE’s contacts with leading tribal members and local intelligence services.”

The statement concluded by adding “Despite their long period of captivity, the members of the Langone family are in a good state of health. They are expected to return to Italy today, arriving in Rome.”

The fate of Togolese national that was also kidnapped along with the Langones remains unknown.

Terrorism in the Region:

According to the 2023 Global Terrorism Index, sub-Saharan Africa recorded the largest increase in terrorism deaths in 2022, with the Sahel region representing 43 percent of global terrorism deaths while also facing a 7 percent increase from the year prior. Terrorism deaths in the Sahel have risen by over 2,000 percent between 2007 and 2022. The violence has been driven by jihadist groups such as Boko Haram, JNIM, ISWA, and other al-Qaeda affiliated groups.

Mali is fourth most country impacted by terrorism as it continues to face insurgency by Islamic State and al-Qaeda-linked militant groups, such as JNIM.