A South African tourist who was abducted nearly six years ago from an inn in Timbuktu, Mali, by the North African branch of Al Qaeda has been freed, officials said on Thursday.
The tourist, Stephen Malcolm McGown, 42, was the last of the “Timbuktu Three,” who were abducted in late 2011, to be released. A Dutch citizen was rescued in 2015, and a Swedish man was released in June.
Mr. McGown’s captivity had become a cause célèbre in South Africa, but his freedom came at a price: A retired European intelligence official said on Thursday that 3.5 million euros (about $4.2 million) had been paid.
The retired official, who requested anonymity to discuss delicate information, said that the payment was negotiated through Gift of the Givers Foundation, a South African charity that had campaigned for Mr. McGown’s release. The former official said it was transferred by an undercover agent working for French security services in the Adrar des Iforas mountains in the deserts of northern Mali where Qaeda militants have held hostages.
Adapted report from NYtimes