Contrary to Earlier Reports of Being Freed, Catholic Priest in Mali Gains “real” Freedom

Fr. Léon Dougnon who had been reportedly freed a couple of days after his abduction in Mali last month, only gained his freedom earlier this week, a Priest in the West African country has confirmed.

The Catholic Priest was kidnapped alongside four other people in Mali’s Mopti Diocese on the morning of June 21.

Contrary to some media reports that he had been among the abductees who gained their freedom two days later, on June 23, Fr. Léon was only freed this week, Tuesday, July 13.

When I heard the news of Fr. Léon’s freedom from captivity, “I danced with joy,” Fr. Fernand Coulibaly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Mali has been quoted as saying.

Fr. Coulibaly added that the release of Fr. Léon after more than three weeks in captivity is good news "even beyond the Christian community since the whole country, the Dogon plateau, was worried. It can be said that the prayerful wishes of many have been granted.”


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.

More in Africa

“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.


Independence and now jihadist insurgencies led by groups linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State, as well as inter-communal violence, have left thousands of people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. 

The violence has spread to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Sr. Gloria Cecilia Narvaez Argot, a member of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate, kidnapped in the Catholic Diocese of Sikasso in Southern Mali in 2017 is believed to be in the hands of jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda.

In her latest communication, the native of Colombia is said to have written a letter to her family in which she appeals for hearty prayers for her safe release.

In the letter dated 3 February 2021 sent via Red Cross International and received by her brother, Edgar Narváez Argoti, Sr. Gloria says that she is now being held hostage by a different Islamist group from the one that abducted her.

(Story continues below)

“I send everyone my warmest greetings. May the good Lord bless them and grant them health. I have been held prisoner for four years, and now I am with a new group”, the 57-year-old Franciscan Sister writes in the letter, which the Pontifical charity organization, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International, cites in a July 9 report.  

She adds, “May they all pray a great deal for me. May God bless them all. I am hopeful that God will help me to regain my freedom. Your loving sister, Gloria.”