A video of the Dutch national kidnapped three years ago in Mali was released on Tuesday by Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and shows the man pleading for help from the Dutch government.
Sjaak Rijke, 54, was taken by force from a restaurant in Timbuktu in November 2011 during a ‘dream trip’ across the Sahara.
In the video, Rijke calls on the Dutch people to put pressure on their government to agree to the demands of the Muslim fighters. ‘I hold my government responsible for any harm that befalls me,’ he says in English, adding that he has serious back problems and is emotionally drained.
Rijke complains that he has heard nothing from the Netherlands about negotiations, while ‘the US government freed five Taliban fighters to save one American captive’. This is a reference to the soldier Bowe Bergdahl who was captured in Afghanistan in 2009 and released in May 2014.
Rijke ends his message, which he says was recorded on September 26 this year, with the words ‘Please help me, please’.
In an interview on Radio 1 on Tuesday morning, foreign affairs minister Bert Koenders said that his ministry is ‘obviously working on the case’ but he could not say any more.
‘It is frustrating but I will not comment any further because it is not in Mr Rijke’s interest,’ Koenders said. ‘I have worked in Mali myself, I know the situation quite well and I know it is not a good idea,’ the former UN envoy in Mali said.
Dutch soldiers are currently engaged in the fight against Muslim extremists in Mali.
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