Three Italians kidnapped in southern Mali, church says

Kidnappings have surged in the country in recent months

The Italians were kidnapped in Mali amid a surge in extremist activity. AFP.
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Armed men kidnapped an Italian couple and their son in southern Mali overnight, their church said on Friday, as violence spreads in a country ravaged by an extremist insurgency.

A spokesman for the Jehovah's Witnesses church in neighbouring Senegal said the couple is in their 70s and their son is about 50.

They were living in Mali for personal reasons and are not missionaries, he said.

It was not immediately clear who took them, he added.

Media outlets reported that a Togolese national was kidnapped along with the Italians, but the spokesman could not confirm that.

Italy's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it would issue a statement shortly.

Kidnappings have surged recently in Mali, as extremists linked to Al Qaeda and ISIS expand their presence farther south from their strongholds in the north and centre.

The militants also use Mali as a launch pad for attacks across West Africa's Sahel region and into its coastal neighbours.

Abductions of foreigners, by contrast, have declined in the Sahel as deteriorating security has deterred most people from travelling to high-risk areas.

But in April 2021, French journalist Olivier Dubois was kidnapped in the northern city of Gao by Al Qaeda-linked militants. He is believed to still be a hostage.

Armed men also kidnapped an 83-year-old American nun in the north of neighbouring Burkina Faso in early April.

Updated: May 20, 2022, 9:33 PM