Mali: al-Qaeda-linked extremists free German missionary after a year in captivity

28, November, 2023

Mali: al-Qaeda-linked extremists free German missionary after a year in captivity

A German-born missionary priest, Fr. Hans-Joachim Lohre, has been released after a year as a hostage in Mali at the hands of al-Qaeda-linked extremists.

Fr. Hans-Joachim Lohre, a German Missionary of Africa, has been released after being held by extremists in Mali for just over a year.

According to the Vatican's Fides news agency, the 66-year-old priest had been living in the country for more than three decades before disappearing in November 2022.

The French broadcaster "RFI" also reported on the missionary's release. Berlin, however, has not yet officially commented on the case.

Fides notes that the circumstances surrounding the freeing of Fr. Lohre’s are “not clear.”

His release, which occurred on Sunday, was announced by a representative of the Malian government and by two Church officials.

It was apparently negotiated directly by the German government, which brought him straight back to the country on a special flight.

Germany still has a military contingent in Mali as part of the UN peacekeeping mission, MINUSMA. It will be phased out at the end of the year, as requested by the country’s military, which took power in a coup in 2020.

In the course of his thirty years in Mali, Fr. Lohre – known locally as “Ha-Jo” – had worked at the country’s Islamic-Christian Formation Institute (IFIC) and been director of the Faith and Encounter Centre in Hamdallaye.

He was on his way to celebrate Mass for a community of religious sisters in Kalaban Coura when he disappeared.

Fides notes that diplomatic and security sources attribute his disappearance to the al-Qaeda-linked Islam and Muslim Support Group, or JNIM.

Father Lohre is the second German to be released in the Sahel in less than a year, after aid worker Jörg Lange, who was kidnapped on 11 April 2018 in western Niger, and released in December 2022.

A number of foreign hostages, including a South African and an Italian couple with their son, are still being held in the Sahel, according to Fides.