MALI: German Catholic Priest Abducted in 2022 Freed After a Year in Captivity

By Paschal Norbert

BAMAKO, NOVEMBER 28, 2023 (CISA)Fr Hans Joachim Lohre, a German missionary and a member of the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) who was kidnapped in Mali’s capital Bamako on November 20, 2022, has been released.

Fr Hans was released on November 26, 2023. His release was announced on Sunday by a representative of the Malian government and two representatives of the Catholic Archdiocese of Bamako, who offered no details of the priest’s state of health or the conditions of his detention and release, and wished to remain anonymous.

In their statement, they said, “The priest Hans-Joachim Lohre, who was abducted on 20 November 2022, was released on Sunday. He is on a plane to his country.”

Reports by local media agencies say that the release was reportedly negotiated directly by the German government and the missionary. After being released by his captors and handed over to the Malian authorities, he was immediately taken into custody by representatives of the German authorities and flown to Germany on an overnight special flight.

According to a news report by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) on November 22, 2022, Fr Hans was presumed kidnapped by Islamist militants after his car was found abandoned and a cross which he always carried with him was also found lying on the ground, minutes after celebrating Mass at a convent in Bamako, the country’s capital.

The 66-year-old German-born priest, nicknamed ‘Ha-Jo’, had lived in Mali for more than 30 years before his ordeal. He taught, among other things, at the Islamic-Christian Training Institute (IFIC) and was responsible for the Faith and Encounter Center in Hamdallaye.

According to ACN, before his kidnapping, Fr Hans had told ACN that missionaries faced potential danger from Mali’s growing Islamist militant groups but stressed that concerns about his safety did not deter him from continuing his ministry in Mali.

“We are an easy target, but we have a mission”, adding “We have been told that the jihadists are watching us,” Fr Hans said in 2022 at an event organized by ACN in Switzerland.

He is the second German to be freed in less than a year in the Sahel, following the release in December 2022 of German humanitarian Jörg Lange, who was kidnapped on April 11, 2018, in western Niger in a region bordering Mali that is also plagued by jihadist activity.

On August 30, 2022, the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) reported that the security situation in Mali has deteriorated sharply since the military junta seized power in August 2020.

“Militant Islamist groups are now actively threatening Bamako and group violence is accelerating in the country, advancing a complex insurgency in north, central, and increasingly southern Mali that further threatens the country’s stability,” they noted.