In a significant development, Hans Joachim Lohre, affectionately known as Father Ha-Yo within Bamako’s Christian community, has been freed after a year-long captivity. The German priest was abducted on November 20 last year in Bamako and held hostage by the Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM), an affiliate of al-Qaeda. The circumstances surrounding his release, which occurred on Sunday morning, November 26, remain undisclosed, as neither Berlin nor Bamako has officially communicated details at this stage.
Confirmation of his release comes from Malian security sources and individuals close to Father Ha-Yo in Bamako. For a year, the Catholic community in Mali has fervently prayed for the liberation of Hans Joachim Lohre.
At 65 years old and having resided in the country for about three decades, Father Ha-Yo taught and lived at the Islamic-Christian Training Institute (IFIC) in Bamako, an institution dedicated to inter-religious dialogue.
The abduction occurred as he was preparing to participate in a Sunday Mass. The cross he wore around his neck was found near his car, close to the institute where he lived. Although the perpetrators could not be formally identified, diplomatic and security sources confirmed less than three weeks later that the German priest was indeed in the hands of JNIM, linked to al-Qaeda.
The jihadist group has long employed hostage-taking as a means of financing in the Sahel region, with numerous Malian and Western hostages either still in captivity or having been held in the past. However, Father Ha-Yo stands out as the first individual abducted in the heart of Mali’s capital city.