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Kidnapped Mali opposition leader doing well as release talks under way

April 4, 2020 12:08 AM


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Mali's opposition leader Soumaila Cisse is "doing well" a week after his kidnapping, his political movement said on Friday, as negotiations were under way with his captors for his release.

A former finance minister and presidential contender, Cisse, 70, and members of his team were snatched in jihadist-ridden central Mali by unidentified gunmen who attacked their convoy.

Cisse's bodyguard was killed and two others injured by the assailants, likely members of an Al-Qaeda affiliate led by radical Islamist preacher Amadou Koufa, according to security and local sources.

Five people kidnapped along with Cisse were freed on Thursday and are doing well, his party said.

Cisse and three other members of his delegation still detained "are also doing well", said Demba Traore, spokesman for Cisse's Union for the Republic and Democracy (URD).

"I can assure you that no ransom was paid," Traore told reporters. "Negotiations are continuing normally." 

The talks are being led by a local mayor and some community figures.

The Malian government welcomed the liberation of the five, saying it was a good signal for the opposition leader's eventual release.

Despite a years-long jihadist conflict raging in the West African state, Cisse's kidnap was the first of a politician of his rank. 

Mali has been struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency that erupted in the north in 2012, and which has claimed thousands of military and civilian lives.  

The opposition leader won his seat in Mali's parliamentary election on Sunday, provisional results released on Thursday indicate.

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