BAMAKO, July 18 (Reuters) – Three Chinese citizens and two Mauritanians were kidnapped from a construction site in northern Mali on Saturday when gunmen searched the construction site for equipment and took hostages, the army said.
The raid took place 55 kilometers (34 miles) from the city of Kwala, a regular transit point for companies moving north through Mali’s desert, the army said in a statement.
Later that evening, armed men attacked a road checkpoint in the country’s central San region, some 400 km from Bamako, killing three civilians, the army said in a second statement.
No group has taken responsibility for either attack.
Parts of Mali have been entangled in violence since 2012 when several insurgent groups launched campaigns against the Malian government for more autonomy.
The conflict, which has since been co-opted by jihadist militants with ties to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, has displaced hundreds of thousands.
The people kidnapped on Saturday are employees of the Chinese construction company Covec and the Mauritanian road construction company ATTM, who developed the site under the protection of a private security company, the army said.
The attackers also took off with five pickup trucks before setting fire to much of the site and destroying a crane, dump truck and other equipment owned by the company, the statement said.
Kidnappings are an integral part of the war in Mali, with foreigners in particular regularly being targeted by militants in order to obtain ransom for their release.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has asked the Security Council to authorize additional troops for the peacekeeping mission in Mali in response to increasing violence by Islamist fighters, according to a Reuters report on Friday. Continue reading
Meanwhile, the former colonial power France has announced that it will withdraw its 5,100-strong task force directed against the militants in the West African Sahel. Continue reading
Reporting by Tiémoko Diallo; Letter from Cooper Inveen; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle
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