He was the oldest known Western hostage in the Sahel. Kidnapped in northern Burkina Faso in 2015 by the jihadist group Al-Mourabitoune, the Romanian Iulian Ghergut was then taken to Mali, where his trace had been lost over the years. The kidnapping of Iulian, then 39 years old, is the first terrorist act on Burkinabe territory and marks the beginning of a long cycle of violence leading to the collapse of the country. In March 2023, La Croix L’Hebdo devoted several pages to this Romanian citizen, “The forgotten hostage”.
This Wednesday, August 9, he is back in his native country and “safe”, announced the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The government does not provide information on the place and date of release, contenting itself with a special thank you addressed to the Moroccan authorities “for the significant support provided in order to resolve this extremely complicated file. President Klaus Iohannis also welcomed this event on X: “I welcome the release of the Romanian citizen kidnapped in Burkina Faso! Congratulations to all the Romanian institutions involved for their continuous efforts and thanks to our external partners who supported us in this difficult undertaking. »
Several hostage releases in 2023
Before his abduction, Iulian Ghergut had worked since 2013 as a security guard in Tambao, in a manganese mine which belonged to a Romanian-Australian businessman, Frank Timis. Originally from a small village of Catholic Hungarians in the northeast of Romania, he had, like his five brothers and sisters, tried his luck in the “West”. He lived with his wife in London, where he worked as a taxi driver, when he was recruited as a security guard by a former legionnaire of Romanian origin, Horatiu Potra.
The release of the Romanian citizen is in addition to those of other captive Western hostages in the Sahel, released this year, in particular thanks to the aid of Niger: the French journalist Olivier Dubois, accompanied by the American Jeffery Woodke, in March, then Australian doctor Kenneth Elliott in May. “The only other hostage I saw was Romanian Iulian Ghergut,” Jeffery Woodke said at a press conference. It was at the beginning of my captivity, but I was not allowed to speak to him. I don’t have any other information about him. The former humanitarian had also made contact with Iulian’s family and announced that he would now do everything possible to help free the other hostages.
While they had remained without news since 2018, Iulian’s family had been received, at the beginning of April 2023, by the Romanian authorities and then learned of Iulian’s last video, dated December 2021. hope” Iulian’s sister, Elvira Ghergut, told La Croix at the time. A hope come true.