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French forces rescue Mali hostage

A Dutch hostage kidnapped in Mali in 2011 has been rescued in a French special forces operation, the military says.

The military said the rescue of Sjaak Rijke took place at 5am today in far northern Mali and several militants were captured.

Some 3,000 French forces are taking part in the mission to stabilise Mali, which was overrun by al Qaida-linked Islamic extremists until French troops came to the aid of Malian soldiers.

Mr Rijke was abducted by extremists in November 2011 in Timbuktu. France said he was safely evacuated to a French operating base in Tassalit.

The military said several militants were captured during the rescue operation.

The Dutchman appeared in a video posted in November by al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.

Mr Rijke was abducted from a hostel along with Swede Johan Gustafsson and South African Stephen Malcolm.

A German died in the attack. Officials in France and the Netherlands did not say whether there was any news of Mr Gustafsson or Mr Malcolm.

Hostage-taking has proved to be a lucrative business in Mali, other Sahel countries and further afield in the war zone of Syria and Iraq.

Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders said Mr Rijke is being cared for by Dutch embassy staff and troops in Mali, and is doing well under the circumstances.

"This is fantastic news for Sjaak and his family. I'm happy and relieved that this terrible period of uncertainty and sadness has been brought to an end," Mr Koenders said.

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