Gunmen kidnap 20 villagers in central Mali

Gunmen seized about 20 people in volatile central Mali, with nine remaining in detention Wednesday after their captors released the other hostages, local and security officials said.

The kidnapping occurred on Tuesday during a weekly market in the village of Farabougou, near the central Malian town of Niono, according to Boukary Coulibaly, the village chief.

A youngster was killed during the kidnapping, he said, adding that the “armed men” afterwards released some hostages, mostly women and children.

“At the moment, they’re holding nine people,” Coulibaly said.

Mali has been struggling to quell an insurgency which emerged in 2012 and has since spread into neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Central Mali has become an epicenter of the conflict, prey to routine militant attacks, ethnic strife and tit-for-tat killings.

Thousands of soldiers and civilians have died in the conflict in Mali to date.

A local elected official and a security official in central Mali both confirmed the kidnapping to AFP.

An official at Mali’s security ministry said the government was “doing everything to obtain the freedom of the nine civilians who are still detained”.

3 Mali national guardsmen killed in overnight attack 

Three national guardsmen were killed in an attack in central Mali on Tuesday night, a security official said, in the latest violence to hit the turbulent region.

Unidentified gunmen ambushed the guardsmen at around 11 pm in the village of Birga-Peul near the town of Koro, by the border with Burkina Faso, the security official said on Wednesday, killing three. 

The militants also torched two vehicles and made off with another, added the official, who declined to be named.

The conflict in central Mali has claimed the lives of thousands of soldiers and civilians. 

Mali hostage’s son still awaiting news after militants’ release 

The son of a French aid worker taken hostage in Mali said on Wednesday he was still awaiting news about his mother after speculation intensified following the release of detained militants.

Hopes that 75-year-old Sophie Petronin and abducted Malian opposition leader Soumaila Cisse may soon be released surged at the weekend when security sources said Mali’s new government had freed scores of militants

But Petronin’s son, Sebastien Chadaud, who flew to the Malian capital Bamako on Tuesday, said he had no information about this mother.

“Nothing yet,” he said in a brief message to AFP, adding that he did not know whether any release was underway or not.

Petronin was abducted by gunmen on December 24, 2016, in the northern city of Gao, where she worked for a children’s charity. She is the last French national held hostage in the world.

Cisse, a 70-year-old former opposition leader and three-time presidential candidate, was kidnapped on March 25 while campaigning in his home region of Niafounke ahead of legislative elections.

Anger at his abduction was a factor in a groundswell of protests against President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who was finally toppled by young army officers on August 18.

The junta has installed an interim president, Bah Ndaw, but made concessions to Mali’s neighbours demanding safeguards for a return to civilian rule.

Ndaw’s government is led by a civilian, with military men in key ministerial positions. Under a “charter” endorsed by the junta, the transition period will last for a maximum of 18 months.

Petronin and Cisse are believed to be held by an armed militant group linked to Al-Qaeda.

One of the world’s poorest and most unstable countries Mali is in the grip of an eight-year-old insurgency that began in the north, spread to the ethnically volatile center.

Thousands of civilians and soldiers have been killed and hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes.

The French and Malian governments have refused to comment on any exchange.

(Source: Agencies)

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