Kidnapped Mozambican businessman released

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MAPUTO, Mozambique (AP) — A wealthy Mozambican businessman, who was kidnapped last month, has been released, authorities said on Saturday.

Mohamed Bachir Suleman, who had been accused by the U.S. government of being an international drug trafficker, was freed by his captors on Friday, according Interior Minister Alberto Mondlane.

Mondlane said Suleman was released in the southern Gaza province and had been held in police custody overnight. Three men were arrested when they tried to flee, police said. Suleman said he believed his kidnappers were Zimbabwean and South African nationals.

Suleman looked pale after police transported him to the capital Maputo, where he also lives. The businessman told reporters that he was not well, saying that he was fed four cookies and an apple each day. He said he was moved to various locations during the five weeks he was held.

Suleman was kidnapped by several men with assault rifles in the parking lot of a shopping mall that he owns in the Mozambican capital. Officials said they did not receive any ransom demands from the kidnappers.

Suleman said the kidnappers demanded $10 million dollars from him when he was abducted.

"I told them I don't have that money," said Suleman. "They then demanded 5 million dollars, which I also didn't have."

Suleman's abduction was the latest in an increasing number of kidnappings targeting wealthy figures in Mozambique. Mondlane said police were working on strategies to prevent further kidnappings.

"He and his family are collaborating with the police to explain the exact circumstances that led to his kidnapping," Mondlane said during a live broadcast on Mozambican state television.

"My desire is to dismantle the kidnapping network," said Suleman.

In 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama put Suleman on a U.S. list of specially designated narcotics traffickers and barred Americans from doing business with him. His various businesses, including a chain of grocery shops, were blacklisted according to the Kingpin Act of 1999.

Suleman, an orphan who had worked as a street vendor and later became one of Mozambique's richest men, has denied involvement in drug trafficking.

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