A Colombian nun who was abducted in 2017 by Islamist fighters in Mali has been set free Saturday. Following her release, Sister Gloria Cecilia Narváez met with Mali’s interim President Assimi Goita then traveled to Rome on Sunday to meet with Pope Francis.

According to Al Jazeera, the nun’s release was a pooled effort of negotiations and intelligence that had lasted for more than four years. Colombia National Police Director Jorge Luis Vargas said a number of meetings were held with several European and African ambassadors who had been trying to pull strings to secure the nun’s release. However, Vargas did not elaborate any further details nor did he say whether a ransom was paid in exchange for the release of Narváez.

“Today is very good news for Colombia, but also for the national police for all the efforts made over the years to secure the safe release of our compatriot,” the National Police director said.

Sources with access during negotiations said the 59-year-old nun was treated well during her captivity, and she said she was able to learn the Quran.

The office of Mali’s president praised Narváez for her “courage and bravery” while the Archbishop of Bamako, Jean Zerbo thanked the Malian authorities “and other good people who made this release possible.”

Narváez was taken hostage in 2017 by the Macina Liberation Front, an al-Qaeda-linked group. She was abducted near the border with Burkina Faso, while working as a missionary in Koutiala, about 400km (248 miles) east of Mali's capital Bamako.

Over the years since her abduction, there had been irregular reports of her safety but two Europeans who managed to escape their captors said she was doing well.

In March, Narváez’s brother received a letter from her that confirmed she was still alive because the note was written in block capitals. The letter had their parent’s names on it and ended with her signature. “She always used capital letters,” her brother told AFP.

During her appearance on state TV, Sister Narváez thanked the Malian authorities for their efforts to liberate her. “I first thank God, who is the light and the peace. I thank the Malian authorities, the president for all the efforts made so that I am free.” "I am very happy, I stayed healthy for five years, thank God," she added.

Abductions in Mali has been an increasing struggle for the government as Islamist insurgency and security crisis deepens in the former French colony. Based on recorded data from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Date Project, more than 935 individuals have been kidnapped in the country since 2017.

French troops who have been leading operations against Islamist groups that have emerged in the country in 2012 have now been scaled down after President Emmanual Macron announced earlier in June that its operations would be reduced over the coming year.

Edgar Narváez, brother of Colombian nun Gloria Cecilia Narvaez
Edgar Narváez, brother of Colombian nun Gloria Cecilia Narvaez, talks after receiving the news of his sister's release in Pasto, Colombia on October 9, 2021. - A Franciscan nun from Colombia kidnapped by jihadists in Mali in 2017 was freed Saturday, said a statement from Mali's presidential office. Photo by Leonardo Castro/AFP via Getty Images

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