Two workers with the International Committee of the Red Cross were kidnapped Saturday, March 4, in Mali, the organization’s Mali branch said on Twitter.
“We confirm the kidnapping of 02 of our colleagues this morning between Gao and Kidal”, it said, adding that the agency had been present in Mali for 32 years, and was “a neutral, independent and impartial organization”. “We ask not to speculate on this incident so as not to hinder its resolution”, it added.
Aminata Alassane, a public relations officer with ICRC Mali, confirmed the kidnapping to AFP, saying it had taken place on the road between Gao and Kidal. “The ICRC deplores (the incident) and demands the release of its collaborators,” she said.
Since 2012, Mali has been in the grip of a serious security crisis. Violence, including kidnappings of foreigners and Malians, is common, the motives ranging from ransom demands to acts of reprisal. In February, a World Health Organization (WHO) doctor who had been abducted in Mali in late January was freed. In May, armed men kidnapped three Italians and a Togolese national in southeastern Mali.
Mali is in the throats of an 11-year-old security crisis triggered by a regional revolt in the north that developed into a full-blown jihadist insurgency. The violence gripping the Sahel country since 2012 has involved attacks by jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State group, but also an assortment of self-declared militias and bandits.
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The unrest has spread into neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger. Thousands of civilians, police and troops have been killed across the region, and more than two million have fled their homes. In Burkina Faso, an American nun was kidnapped by jihadists last April and released in August.