By Ere-ebi Agedah
Armed men have kidnapped an Italian couple and their child as well as a Togolese national in southeastern Mali, a local official and a Malian security source disclosed.
According to an official from the Koutiala region who asked not to be named, the abductions occurred late Thursday about 100 kilometres (60 miles) from the border with Burkina Faso, part of a west African region hit by turmoil, kidnappings as well as conflict blamed on armed jihadists.
He said the victims were two Italian adults and their child as well as a Togolese, adding they were all Jehovah’s Witnesses.
A Malian security source, speaking on condition of anonymity, also said two Italian adults and their child, along with a Togolese, were kidnapped.
He described the abductees as “religious people.”
He said the abductions took place in the southeastern town of Sincina, around 100 kilometres from the Burkina Faso border.
“We are doing everything to obtain their release,” the person said, adding that diplomatic lines of communication were open.
The Italian foreign ministry’s crisis unit is doing “rigorous checks” concerning “news appearing in different media relative to the abduction in Mali of three Italian nationals”, it said in a brief statement.
Foreign “Minister (Luigi) Di Maio is personally following developments in this case,” the statement added.
A number of foreigners have been kidnapped across the border in Burkina Faso in recent years.
Kidnappings are frequent in Mali, though motives span from criminal to political reasons.
In most cases, the conditions or circumstances of the release of kidnap victims is never clearly established.
Mali has since 2012 been wracked by a jihadist insurgency by groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Vast swathes of the country are in thrall to myriad rebel groups and militias.
Thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed and hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes amid violence that began in the north of the country and spread to the centre, and then to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.
Olivier Dubois, a 47-year-old French freelance journalist who has been living and working in Mali since 2015, was kidnapped more than a year ago.