Mali has freed more than 100 suspected or convicted jihadists as part of negotiations for the release of a prominent Malian politician and a kidnapped French charity worker, sources close to the talks told AFP on Monday.
“As part of the negotiations for the release of Soumaila Cissé and Sophie Pétronin, more than a hundred jihadist prisoners were released this weekend,” one of the negotiators, who asked not to be named, told AFP.
A security official confirmed the information, according to AFP. The detainees were released in the central region of Niono and in Tessalit in the north after arriving by plane, the official said.
A Tessalit lawmaker, who also requested anonymity, confirmed to AFP that “a large number of jihadist prisoners” arrived there on Sunday.
Sophie Pétronin, a French charity worker, was abducted by gunmen on December 24, 2016 in the northern city of Gao.
The last video in which she appeared was received in June 2018. She seemed tired and emaciated and appealed to French President Emmanuel Macron. In another video, in November 2018, where she did not show up, her kidnappers said her health had deteriorated.
Soumaila Cissé is a former opposition leader and three-time presidential candidate. He was seized on March 25 during the campaign in his home region of Niafounké before the legislative election.
Mali, backed by France and UN peacekeepers, is battling an eight-year-old Islamist uprising that has claimed thousands of lives.
A military junta overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in August before taking over the leadership of the West African nation.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)