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4 Red Cross employees abducted in central Mali

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
File photo shows a staffer of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) helping locals in central Mali.

Four Malian nationals working for the Red Cross in central parts of the African country have been kidnapped by unknown gunmen.

“Colleagues of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Red Cross Mali were kidnapped in … Tenekou area, Mopti region, on Sunday May 14 around 7pm," a Red Cross Facebook post said on Monday, adding, "They were conducting a survey of the humanitarian situation when unidentified and armed individuals said they had to come with them.”

Local officials said negotiations were underway to secure the release of the abductees.

Jean-Nicolas Marti, the head of the ICRC delegation, expressed hope that the humanitarian workers would be released immediately.

"We are very worried for our colleagues. We are doing everything possible to work out what happened and to ensure their safe release without precondition and as quickly as possible," Marti said.

The Red Cross has seen similar kidnapping of its staff by militants in Mali, especially in the restive north of the country, where it runs humanitarian operations. The organization said last month that it had decided to suspend operations in Kidal after burglars ransacked its offices in the northern city.

Three workers of the Red Cross were abducted in April last year in northeastern Mali, but they were released three days later. The so-called Ansar Din group claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

France led a military intervention into northern Mali in 2013 to push back militants. In the same year, the UN also set up a mission in Mali in a bid to stabilize the country.

The militants, who are mostly linked to the al-Qaeda, have now spread their insurgency to the south of Mali.

Several of them announced recently that they would join an alliance to counter France and other foreign militaries in the country. 

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