A Swedish man kidnapped by Islamic extremists in northern Mali nearly six years ago and released in June says he converted to Islam "to save my life."

The 42-year-old Johan Gustafsson made his first public appearance Thursday. He told reporters that fleeing his captors had been "out of the question."

He had been on a motorcycle tour in Africa when he was seized. A South African also freed in recent days is expected to speak later Thursday.

Sweden insists it never paid any ransom and Gustafsson's release was obtained through negotiations.

Gustafsson says he doesn't know what led to his freedom and says he thinks it's wrong to pay ransoms.

"I hope they let me out because they were tired of me," he says.