The Swiss government has confirmed that Beatrice Stöckli, an evangelical missionary kidnapped four years ago, has been killed by her captors.
Stöckli was abducted in 2012 after originally travelling to Mali with Germany-based missionary group, Neues Leben Ghan (New Life Ghana).
In a statement on her death, foreign minister Ignazio Cassis said: “It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of our fellow citizen. I condemn this cruel act and express my deepest sympathy to the relatives."
After working with Neues Leben Ghan for a period of time, Stöckli then went out on her own, teaching children to read and write using children's stories and the passages of the Koran that reference Jesus. Subsequently, a local Islamic preacher publicly denounced her as a Christian missionary.
She was then taken by a group of Islamic extremists into the desert, tortured and threatened with death if she did not deny Christ and embrace Islam. After being held for nine days, the Burkina Faso government managed to arrange her release through a process of mediation.
Despite the threats, Stöckli quickly returned to her teaching job.
Then, in January 2016, armed men arrived at her door and abducted her. She appeared in several hostage videos, where she asked the government to help secure her release in exchange for the freeing of AQMI jihadist fighters jailed in Mali.
The Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) said it was informed of Stöckli's death by the French authorities after aid worker Sophie Pétronin, who was being held alongside Stöckli, confirmed that her fellow captive had been killed.
"She was apparently killed by kidnappers of the Islamist terrorist organization Jama'at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslim (JNIM) about a month ago," the FDFA said in a statement, noting that it was “making every effort to find out more about the circumstances of the killing and the whereabouts of the [Stöckli's] remains".
In response to the news, Peter Schneeberger, President of the Association of Free Churches of Switzerland, wrote on Facebook: "We are in thoughts and prayers with the relatives of the missionary Beatrice Stöckli from Basel, who was killed in Mali."
Last week, it was reported that Pétronin had been released alongside Italians Reverend Pierluigi Maccalli and Nicola Chiacchio — and prominent Malian politician, Soumaila Cisse — following a large-scale prisoner exchange.