Kidnapped French aid worker's son cautious on word of her release in Mali

PARIS (Reuters) – The son of a French aid worker kidnapped in Mali said on Tuesday that the family remains cautious over news of her release, despite a relative saying on France’s BFMTV that she has already been freed.

FILE PHOTO: Sebastien Chadaud-Petronin (R), the son of French hostage who is held in Mali, Sophie Petronin, is comforted by former FARC hostage French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt at the end of a press conference in Paris, France, December 14, 2018. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/File Photo

Malian and French authorities have neither confirmed nor denied that Sophie Petronin and abducted Mali politician Soumaila Cisse, have been released, or that talks about their potential release were ongoing.

Islamist gunmen abducted Petronin in December 2016, in the northern Malian city of Gao, where she ran a charity for malnourished and orphaned children, while Cisse was abducted in March.

Petronin’s son, Sebastian Chadaud-Petronin, flew to Bamako, the capital of the West African nation, ahead of her possible release. Chadaud-Petronin said on Tuesday evening it was still too early to celebrate and that it was not clear whether she had indeed been handed over by her captors.

“If it could end tonight, I’ll be happy for her. For my family, it would good for the ordeal to end. So, we are keeping our fingers crossed. We still don’t know if it will end. We remain prudent,” Chadaud-Petronin said.

“My mum is a fighter, but she’ll likely be in a deteriorated physical condition,” he said.

The French army and foreign affairs ministries did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Petronin’s nephew, Lionel Granouillac, said on BFM television from Paris that she has been released and was on her way to Bamako.

“Even if French authorities have not officially confirmed it yet, we the family tonight can rejoice in her liberation,” Granouillac said.

Petronin, who is in her 70s, was set to be freed along with Mali opposition leader Cisse in exchange for the release of scores of suspected Islamist insurgents by the Malian authorities, three sources told Reuters on Monday.

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