3 Italians, 1 Togolese abducted in southern Mali, mayor says

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BAMAKO, Mali – Armed men have kidnapped an Italian family and their Togolese domestic worker in southern Mali, an official said Friday, the latest attack targeting Westerners in the restive West African country.

The men broke into the home of a Christian missionary couple on Thursday night, the town of Cincinnati mayor Chaka Coolibali told The Associated Press.

A member of Mali’s small Christian community said the Italian couple were Jehovah’s Witnesses and they were working to establish a church in the commune.

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi de Maio was following developments, the foreign ministry said, adding that its crisis unit was “carrying out the necessary verifications and tests.”

Cincinnati is about 400 kilometers (249 miles) east of Mali’s capital, Bamako, and near the country’s volatile southern border with Burkina Faso, where Islamic extremists are active.

Jihadi rebels have long kidnapped Westerners and held them captive for ransom in the Sahel region of Africa, a vast region south of the Sahara Desert. Kidnappings were more common in northern Mali, but Thursday’s attack was not the first of its kind in the south.

In 2017, a Colombian monk, Sister Gloria Cecilia Norvez, was abducted by al-Qaeda-linked militants in Carangaso, about 27 kilometers (17 miles) from where the Italian family was abducted. The monk was released in 2021 after spending more than four years in captivity.

Earlier this month, a cardinal testified that Pope Francis had approved spending up to মিল 1 million to secure his release. It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post. Ransom payments are rarely guaranteed to prevent future kidnappings.

Contributed by Frances D’Emilio and Colin Barry, authors of the Associated Press in Rome.

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