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Al Qaeda Hostage Sjaak Rijke Freed by French Forces in Mali

PARIS — French forces freed a Dutch hostage Monday who had been held by al Qaeda's north African arm in Mali since 2011.

Sjaak Rijke was rescued during a special operation and transferred "safe and sound" to a temporary base in Tessalit, north-east Mali, according to the French defense ministry.

French forces had also killed two militants and captured two others during fighting that took place during the early-morning raid, Lieutenant Colonel Michel Sabatier added.

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said Rijke was in good condition considering the circumstances and receiving medical treatment.

"The liberation of Mr. Rijke underscores France's staunch determination to fight armed terrorist groups," the French ministry said in a statement.

Rijke was kidnapped in Timbuktu in November 2011.

In November Rijke's captors, the al Qaeda-affiliated AQIM group, issued a video of him along with French national Serge Lazarevic.

Lazarevic, held captive in the Sahara for three years, was released the following month in exchange for four Islamist militants with ties to al Qaeda in north Africa.

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- Reuters