Colombian nun kidnapped in Mali returns home

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Colombian nun Gloria Cecilia Narvaez arrives in Bogota, on November 16, 2021: she was kidnapped in February, 2017 by Mali jihadists and only freed last month (AFP/DANIEL MUNOZ)

A Colombian nun who was kidnapped and held by jihadists in Mali for more than four years returned to her home country on Tuesday.

"Welcome, welcome, our heart welcomes you," sang a dozen nuns waiting for her at the airport in Bogota, while Sister Gloria Cecilia Narvaez hugged each one of them.

The 59-year-old nun was taken hostage on February 7, 2017 in southern Mali near the border with Burkina Faso, where she had been working as a missionary.

"The Lord gave me the joy of having brothers and sisters," said the nun, who was freed on October 9. "I thank you with all my heart."

"Your strength amazes me," said Colonel Gustavo Camargo, deputy director of the anti-kidnapping police who had gone to Mali to press for her release.

Returning to her homeland, which was itself plagued by kidnappings in a conflict that lasted more than half a century, Narvaez spoke out for victims of abduction.

"I was thinking of all the suffering that people go through when they are kidnapped right here in Colombia, in the whole world, there in Mali, how many people are left," said the nun, whose mother died in September 2020 while awaiting the release of her daughter.

Kidnappings are common in Mali, mired in unrest of its own, and especially in the center of the country, a hotbed of jihadist violence.

Since March 2012, several areas have been in the hands of groups linked to Al-Qaeda.

Before returning to Colombia, the nun visited Pope Francis at the Vatican.

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