Kidnapped Algerian diplomats freed in north Mali, report
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The seven Algerian diplomats kidnapped in northern Mali have been freed, according to the Algiers-based El Watan newspaper. Earlier a breakaway Islamist militia claimed responsibility for their capture.
Algerian consul Boualem Sias, five of his staff and the representative of the Algerian community in Gao, the city where they were captured, were freed mid-morning Sunday, the paper says.
Earlier a radical breakaway from Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim), the Movement for Unity and Jihad in Westa Africa (Mujoa), said it had kidnapped the Algerians.
In December 2011 Mujoa claimed responsibility for the capture of two Spaniards and an Italian in west Algeria and it says that it is still holding them.
Other developments in Mali on Sunday include:
- A meeting of ministers from Algeria, Mauritania and Niger in Nouakchott warned that military intervention could worsen the situation in the area;
- The west African nations’ group Ecowas ordered the lifting of sanctions after the agreement of putschists to hand over power to civilians;
- The speaker of parliament, Dioncounda Traoré, who is to take over the presidency according to the agreement, met politicians after returning to Bamako - a meeting with coup leader Amadou Sanogo was expected to be postponed;
- Leaders of Aqim were reported to be in Timbuktu after its capture by the Islamist Ansar Dine group - oner of them, Mokhtar Belmokhtar was reported to have arrived in Gao on Friday night.
Tuareg separatists on Friday declared the north a separate state named Azawad but Islamist groups appear to have taken control of the major towns in the region.
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