With Moroccan Help, German Development Aid Worker Lange Freed After Being Held Hostage For Years

With Moroccan Help, German Development Aid Worker Lange Freed After Being Held Hostage For Years

Der Spiegel, Dec 10 (TNA) The kidnapping of German development agent Jörg Lange is over after almost four-and-a-half years. According to information from SPIEGEL, a ‘friendly secret service’ negotiated the release of the 63-year-old man.

He was handed over on Thursday by his captors to agents in the region (Mali Niger). They then brought Lange to the German Embassy in Bamako, the Malian capital, where he was taken care of by agents of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA).

The development worker from “Bad Honnef” would now be flown to Germany as soon as possible. According to information from SPIEGEL, a North African secret service assisted in the release of Lange.

The case has occupied the federal government's crisis management team since April 11, 2018. At that time, Lange, who headed the private aid organization "Help in Niger", was assaulted and abducted by unknown persons in motorcycle in the region of Tillabéri in the border area with Mali. His Nigerian driver was released a little later.

German authorities speculate that Lange was first kidnapped by a criminal group, but was then likely sold to the Islamist terrorist group 'Islamic State in the Greater Sahara' (ISGS). ISGS militias continue to kidnap foreigners, mainly trying to fill their war chests by extorting ransoms.

The Crisis Team has made dozens of attempts over the years to free Lange. In September 2018, the Bundeswehr deployed a small team of elite soldiers from the Special Forces Command (KSK) to Niger. The team had drawn up an updated picture of the situation and determined whether Lange can be released militarily. The KSK managed to determine Lange's whereabouts several times. However, an access operation was never seriously considered because the risk would have been too high.

The kidnappers have repeatedly posted messages over the years to use Lange as bargaining chips. For example, a video emerged shortly after an attack in the Mali/Niger border region. Later, a desperate Lange wrote letters to his wife and four children. In a handwritten letter in French in 2019, he warned that the federal government should not prolong negotiations with the kidnappers. He was in the middle of a war zone and he represented the enemy to the kidnappers, Lange said in his letter.

Over the years, all attempts to end this hostage-taking have failed. Intermediaries from the region have come forward to offer their services on several occasions. Although some provided proof of life to the hostage in exchange for money, most efforts failed. A so-called BKA negotiating group had to start all over again. In the meantime, it was feared that Lange would be killed or that he would succumb to the rigors of his hostage condition or that he would be taken to new hiding places.

After many unsuccessful attempts, the release was relatively quick with the help of Morocco. A few weeks ago, the local secret services offered to mediate. After the Moroccans managed to confirm an updated proof of life of the victim, the crisis team had hope again. The Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) had also been on site since the beginning of this week, as the release was awaited.

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