It’s still unclear whether Thursday’s military coup in Mali will have consequences for the Dutchman who has been held hostage there for almost four months. And in an entirely different kidnapping case involving a Dutchman in the Philippines, there might be some good news now that another hostage has been released.
On Thursday, Malian soldiers seized power from what they saw as the “incompetent regime” of President Amadou Toumani Touré. Immediately a nationwide curfew was imposed and the constitution was suspended. In the north of the country, the nomadic Tuareg tribe have been gaining ground over the past months. Dozens of people have been killed and hundreds of thousand people have fled.
Dutch train driver Sjaak Rijke and his wife were on holiday in the north of Mali last November. They were visiting the popular tourist destination Timbuktu when their group was attacked by armed men. Mr Rijke, a South African and a Swede were kidnapped. A German, who resisted, was shot dead on the spot. Mr Rijke’s wife managed to hide from the attackers and reach safety.
The kidnapping was claimed by the North African branch of Al-Qaeda. There have been reports of contact with the kidnappers to negotiate the release of the travellers. It is still unclear whether the military coup will influence the situation of the hostages. Dutch Development Cooperation Minister Ben Knapen has had contact with the Dutch ambassador in Mali about the situation. Dutch development aid to Mali has been suspended for the time being.
The situation in the Philippines is also turbulent. Last Monday a midwife was kidnapped in the southern municipality of Patikul. After negotiations, she was released again after two days. This is good news according to the Philippine presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, who said in the Philippine daily Sun Star:
“The release gives us reason to hope that the other people who are still being kept hostage will also be released thanks to these efforts and negotiations.”
In February, Dutch birdwatcher Edwold Horn went on an excursion to the island of Tawi Tawi, near the Malaysian part of Borneo, in search of unique bird species. Radical Islamic and communist rebels are active in the region. Mr Horn was joined by a Swiss birdwatcher and two Philippine guides. Both of the guides managed to escape. There has been no trace of the two Europeans.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague has declined to comment on either of the reports.