Armed Islamists took control of the Algerian consulate in Gao, northeastern Mali, on Thursday, kidnapping seven diplomats including the consul, Algeria's foreign ministry said. Algeria has mobilised a crisis team to follow developments.
AFP - Armed Islamists seized the Algerian consulate in Gao in northeastern Mali on Thursday and abducted seven diplomats, Algeria's foreign ministry and witnesses said.
"The consul and six members of the Algerian consular mission have been taken to an unknown destination," the foreign ministry said in a statement published by the APS news agency.
"A crisis team has been established to follow developments so that everything necessary will be done to ensure the safe and sound return of our nationals."
Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said the government was "fully mobilised" to ensure the diplomats' release.
"We do not know who is currently holding them," APS reported him as saying.
Algeria said an "unidentified group" had carried out the attack. Witnesses told AFP the raiders had hoisted the black Salafist flag that has been the emblem of Islamist rebels who have overrrun Timbuktu and other northern cities.
"I am currently in front of the Algerian consulate in district four in Gao. Armed Islamists have entered the consulate, arrested the diplomats and staff and taken down the Algerian flag to put up their own," one witness told AFP in Bamako by telephone.
"I am next to the Algerian consulate, at the moment I can see black men, armed, around the consulate and inside. They have replaced the Algerian flag with a black flag with Arabic writing," another witness said
"I saw the Salafists' flag in place of the Algerian flag at the consulate but at the consul's house the Algerian flag is still up," said a third.
The town of Gao, which housed the regional military headquarters, was seized on Saturday by Tuareg and Islamists linked to Al-Qaeda splinter group the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe
With the town split between the various rebel groups, lawlessness has been rife. Humanitarian workers and locals have told of widespread looting of government and private buildings and car theft.
The military rulers in Bamako who seized power two weeks ago have accused the rebels in Gao of kidnapping and raping women and girls.
Date created : 2012-04-05