Presumed jihadists have kidnapped five civilians in southern Mali, security sources and a local official told AFP on Thursday, a rare abduction in an area that has been largely spared the violence convulsing much of the landlocked African nation for nearly a decade.
The five people were seized by “terrorists on motorcycles in Blendio in the Sikasso region during the night Wednesday to Thursday,” one security source said on condition of anonymity for safety reasons.
Another security source confirmed the incident and a local official said that between 11 and 17 kidnappers were involved in the attack that happened shortly before midnight.
Kidnappings have been common in Mali since the country was plunged into turmoil in 2012 when an insurgency first erupted in the north. But abductions are rare in the south, which has largely been spared the violence.
Mali’s interim government this week entrusted its religious affairs ministry with talking to jihadist groups, a policy fiercely opposed by former colonial power France, but that is seen by many Malians as one of the few ways to end the violence that has killed thousands and displaced hundreds of thousands more.