Mali opposition leader taken hostage


Mali’s main opposition leader Soumaila Cisse is being held hostage with six delegation members, the party said, after they were attacked while campaigning in a region where jihadists strike.

Cisse’s bodyguard was killed and two others wounded when unidentified gunmen ambushed the group between villages in Timbuktu region, the Union for the Republic and Democracy (URD) said.

“Cisse and six others are in their hands,” party spokesman Demba Traore said at a briefing, citing four witnesses who were released.

“We have not received any request for ransom.”

Militants with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State launch attacks on civilian and military targets in the area, but there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The incident comes ahead of long-delayed legislative elections, which authorities say will take place on Sunday despite the coronavirus epidemic. Mali was one of the last West African countries to confirm a case, with four reported by Thursday.

The parliamentary vote was originally scheduled for 2018 but was pushed back several times because of insecurity.

Cisse is Mali’s leading opposition figure. He lost 2013 and 2018 elections to President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

Mali’s government is working with the military to find the hostages. Security sources said at least one helicopter of UN peacekeepers was helping in the search.