JNIM directs hostage video towards Pope Francis

Gloria Narvaez somewhere in the Malian desert, as seen in the video.

Al Qaeda’s Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) produced a proof-of-life video today for one of its hostages, Gloria Cecilia Narvaez, a Colombian nun who was kidnapped last year in the southern Malian region of Sikasso. In the video, she pleads to Pope Francis to aid in her release. The video was produced by JNIM’s Al Ezza Productions, which has produced a hostage video in the past.

The video begins by explaining Christmas and how many Christians around the world celebrate it before showing Narvaez in the Malian desert ‘celebrating’ in captivity. It then directs its attention to Pope Francis saying, “Others are parading around the world, calling for support of the weak, calling for peace, and helping the needy…or so they claim.”

The English-speaking narrator of the video then makes the claim that Narvaez is still in captivity because she is not from “the First World” and therefore the Catholic Church does not care about her. Narvaez is then shown speaking to the camera, directly addressing Pope Francis: “I ask of you to help in my freedom and to do the impossible and release me.” Before ending her statement, she also urges her family in Colombia to also assist in freeing her.

Before the video ends, a statement is directed towards Narvaez’s family. “Finally, the mujahideen in the Group for Support of Islam and Muslims reminds the family of the captive that the colonial power in the region is impeding your sister’s dossier,” the statement reads. It continues by warning the family against working with the “colonial power” and to work through charitable organizations, specifically Gift of the Givers.

Gift of the Givers, a South African charity, had previously worked to free Stephen McGown, a South African national who was held by JNIM and its predecessor group, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s Sahara branch, from 2011 to July of last year. While South Africa maintains that no ransom was paid for McGown’s release, other sources have indicated that Gift of the Givers acted as a negotiator in which a ransom was paid by the South African government to the jihadists. JNIM and its predecessor groups have long profited off of kidnapping for ransom.

The purported ransom payment via Gift of the Givers is likely why JNIM is telling Narvaez’s family to work through them.

Gloria Narvaez was last seen in a video released in July 2017. The video marked the first claim of responsibility for the kidnapping of Narvaez, who was taken for “supporting the crusaders in Mali by preaching Christianity,” according to the jihadists. Also shown in the video was Stephen McGown, Ken Elliot, Iulian Ghergut, Beatrice Stockly, and Sophie Petronin. McGown is the only one so far who has been released.

At the very end of the video, a quote from Osama bin Laden is played. “The equation is simple and obvious. Just as you kill us, we will kill you. And as you imprison us, we will imprison you,” the statement reads, “And as you treat our security in vain, we will treat your security in vain.”

Screenshots from the video:

Graphic showing former al Qaeda hostages who were freed:

Statement to Gloria Narvaez’s family:

Caleb Weiss is a contributor to FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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  • Nick Mastrovito says:

    They’re obviously hurting for money. Why else would they keep her alive? Very similar to the FARC’s tactics…

  • Trevor Williams says:

    Not necessarily hurting for money I’d say. AQIM has made around $100 million over the past decade, a lot of it being through ransoms. Since AQIM and JNIM (really all the groups in that region) are connected, it would seem that they’re all doing the same thing. I think in one kidnapping of a group of 32 foreigners, they got Germany to pay around $6 million.

  • Max says:

    Who are the former captives they refer to ? Does anyone know?


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