Algerian diplomats held by Islamists are freed in Mali
Two Algerian diplomats who were kidnapped in Mali in April 2012 by the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) were freed on Saturday, the Algerian foreign ministry announced.
A third diplomat, consul Boualem Sayes, had died in captivity "from a chronic illness", the ministry said.
The ministry did not say whether Mourad Guessas and Kedour Miloudi had been released by their kidnappers or had been freed in a military operation. It made clear, however, that Algeria had not paid a ransom to secure their freedom.
The two were released "after intense and tireless efforts" by authorities using "the utmost discretion", a ministry statement said.
It also confirmed for the first time the execution of vice-consul Tahar Touati, describing his death as an "odious assassination". MUJAO first claimed to have executed Touati in September 2012.
"The Algerian government stresses the necessity of continuing unabated the fight against terrorism and its multiple connections – [notably] drug trafficking and organised crime," the ministry added.
The information was confirmed by a security source in Mali, who told AFP: "A wing of the armed groups in northern Mali managed on Friday night to secure the release of two Algerian diplomats from the hands of MUJAO."
The source said the hostages were released in the Algerian desert town of Bordj Badji Mokhtar on the border with Mali.
Algeria's consul and six of his staff in the northeastern Malian city of Gao were taken hostage by MUJAO on April 5, 2012, while the Islamist militants were in control of the city.
Three jihadist groups – al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Ansar Dine and MUJAO – took control of much of the desert north of Mali in 2012, including the three key towns of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
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