Tuareg jihadist group Ansar Dine has said it is holding three staff members of the Red Cross who went missing at the weekend in the north of Mali, reports AFP.
The group is demanding the release of its leader, Nourredine Mohammed, who is being held by the French troops (Barkhane) in exchange for the aid workers.
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The group which is suspected to have ties with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) wants to impose strict Sharia law across Mali.
Four members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were abducted while returning from a field mission in Abeibara in the north of Kidal.
One of them was released on Monday. The captors or whereabouts of the three others were unknown until Ansar Dine’s announcement.
The international aid organisation said it did not know the motive for the abduction and was not willing to speculate.
The three abducted staff are however said to be unharmed.
Ansar Dine which means ‘defenders of the faith’ in Arabic has its main base among the Ifora tribe in the southern part of the Tuareg homeland.
It claims to control vast regions in the northeastern part of Mali.
In March this year, the group claimed responsibility for four attacks in the north of Mali as well as in the more secure Segou in the central part of the country.