Three Chinese nationals and two Mauritanians were kidnapped in southwestern Mali on Saturday, the country’s armed forces said in the latest attack in war-torn Sahel state.
Gunmen attacked a construction site 55 kilometers (34 miles) from the town of Kwala, taking five vans and the hostages, the Malian army said on social media.
The attackers also destroyed equipment, including a crane and dump trucks belonging to the Chinese construction company Covec and the Mauritanian road construction company ATTM, according to the army.
A Malian army official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the abduction victims were working on road construction in the area.
“The release of all hostages is our priority,” he said.
Mauritanian news agency Al-Akhbar reported that armed men arrived on motorcycles to attack the construction site, burning equipment as well as fuel tanks before withdrawing with captives.
AFP could not independently verify this account.
Mali is struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency that first erupted in the north of the country in 2012 before spreading to the center and to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.
Thousands of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes, while the economic impact on one of the world’s poorest countries has been devastating.
Kidnappings were frequent, both of Malians and foreigners.
French journalist Olivier Dubois, for example, was kidnapped in northern Mali on April 8.
He said in a video taken hostage that the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM), the Sahel’s largest jihadist alliance, had kidnapped him.
© 2021 AFP