Fr. Léon who reportedly prefers to be given time to heal is said to be in good health and “obviously happy about his newfound freedom,” RFI has reported, providing further details of the Priest’s July 13 afternoon release.
According to RFI, Fr. Léon’s abductors dropped him off the road between Mopti and Koro. He spent the night with a relative in a village near the town of Bandiagara in the Mopti region of Mali.
The Parish Priest of Ségué has expressed his gratitude to all those who prayed and worked for his safe release.
He had been kidnapped alongside the Chief of Ségué village, Thimothé Somboro, the Deputy Mayor, Pascal Somboro, and two other members of the community, Emmanuel Somboro and Boutié Tolofoudié.
The five had been abducted June 21 “while traveling from Ségué in the centre of the country, to the funeral of Fr. Oscar Thera in the town of San,” Fr. Alexis Dembélé had been quoted as saying June 22, adding that the kidnap took place some 30 kilometres North of Ségué, in the vicinity of Ouo.
“We have confirmation that it was a kidnapping by armed men. It is a great concern for the Catholic community in Mali,” Fr. Dembélé had further said, and explained, “The poor road network requires one to go up north and then back down to the south to the town of San.”
A couple of days later, on June 23, four of the abductees were reportedly dropped off at the roadside between Bankass and Bandiagara, in the village of Parou within the Diocese of Mopti.
While no group claimed responsibility of the abduction of the five, local sources have reportedly pointed to jihadists of the Macina Liberation Front (Katiba Macina), a militant Islamist group affiliated to Ansar Dine that operates in Mali.
Mali, a country with a population of 19.66 million people has reportedly experienced a surge in violence involving both civilians and the military from 2012.
Since then, kidnappings have become frequent in the West African nation, with militants seeking either to get ransoms or to exert political pressure.