BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — A World Health Organization employee was released in northern Mali after being abducted by unidentified assailants, a spokesperson said Friday.
Dr. Mahamadou Diawara was freed Thursday afternoon and is in Gao town, Abdoulaye Cisse, communication officer for the WHO in Mali told The Associated Press. “We are conducting the formalities to bring him back to (the capital),” he said. He did not give any further details about the circumstances of Diawara's release.
Diawara was abducted from his car last month in the town of Menaka where he had been working with the WHO for three years, providing medical care to communities that are often remote and face security risks and violence.
The West African nation has been battling a decade-long jihadi insurgency linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group. The jihadis conduct hostage-taking for ransom as a way to fund operations and expand their presence.
While no group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, the fact that he was released means it's likely he was not taken by the Islamic State group, which is active in the area, say conflict analysts.
“However, the incident itself confirms the challenging security environment and the high risks even for humanitarian workers. This is largely due to the presence of multiple armed actors,” said Rida Lyammouri, senior fellow at the Policy Center for the New South, a Moroccan-based think tank.
At least 25 foreigners and untold numbers of locals have been abducted in the Sahel since 2015, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project. Several foreigners remain captive according to the organization, including the Rev. Hans-Joachim Lohre, a German priest kidnapped in Mali’s capital, Bamako, in November.