An evangelical missionary from Switzerland who had been held as a captive by Islamic extremists in Mali since January of 2016, was killed by her kidnappers about a month ago, according to a fellow captive.
Beatrice Stockli, 59, was shot and killed after she refused to move with her captors in the Sahara. Fellow captive Sophie Pétronin, who was released earlier this month gave the details about Stockli's death to French officials who passed the information along to Swiss government officials.
The 75-year-old charity worker told authorities the extremists moved their camp regularly to keep Malian and French soldiers from finding them. Pétronin said after Stockli refused to move, the extremists dragged her outside, and then a shot was heard, according to EN24 News.
"It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of our fellow citizen. I condemn this cruel act and express my deepest sympathy to the relatives," Switzerland Federal Councilor Ignazio Cassis said in a statement posted to the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) website.
The Swiss government reports the exact circumstances surrounding Stockli's death remain unclear. They had continually lobbied the Malian government for the past four years for the missionary's release.
The Swiss authorities, under the direction of the FDFA, are trying to find out more about the circumstances behind Stockli's killing and the whereabouts of her remains, according to a statement posted on the agency's website.
"Switzerland will make every effort to preserve the remains of the Swiss hostage. To this end, the FDFA will also approach the transition government in Mali," the agency said.
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World Watch Monitor reported Stockli settled in Timbuktu in 2000, working for a Swiss church, before starting work alone, unaffiliated with any church.
A Malian church leader told the Monitor she led an austere life in Abaradjou, a popular district of Timbuktu which was known to have been frequented by armed jihadist groups. The missionary was described as sociable, particularly among women and children, and she used to sell flowers and hand out Christian material.
Stockli was taken from her home on Jan. 8, 2016 by armed men in four pickup trucks. Later that month, a masked speaker with a British accent claimed responsibility for Stockli's kidnap on behalf of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
"Beatrice Stockli is a Swiss nun (sic) who declared war against Islam in her attempt to Christianize Muslims," he said in a video.
Christians are a minority in Mali. Since 2012, Islamic extremists have ruled the northern part of the country, banning the practice of other religions and desecrating and looting churches and other places of worship, according to World Watch Monitor.
Mali is number 29 on the Open Doors USA's World Watch List of countries where it's most dangerous to be a Christian.