Mali presumes five Westerners kidnapped in its desert north last week are still alive and is doing all it can to liberate them, the West African state’s foreign minister said.
In two separate incidents in northern Mali, two Frenchmen were kidnapped from a hotel while a Dutchman, a South African and a Swede were abducted in the historic trading town of Timbuktu. A German citizen was killed after resisting in the second attack.
Asked on France 24 television, whether he knew if the five were still alive, Foreign Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga replied: “We think so, yes. … For us the main priority is to rescue the hostages alive, using all possible means.”
Boubeye Maiga did not confirm whether forces from former colonial master France were directly involved on the ground in search efforts, saying only there was cooperation between the two countries, Reuters reports.
Mali said on Wednesday it had tightened security in its cities including the capital Bamako after the abductions.
Mali has been criticised by neighbours and Western partners for not doing enough to tackle bandits, local al Qaeda agents and other groups operating in the vast Sahel region straddling Niger, Mauritania, Algeria and Mali.
Though it was still not clear who was responsible for the kidnappings, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has in the past claimed responsibility for similar abductions.