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Malian 'hostage intermediary' claims officials paid a € 2 mln ransom

Late Malian politician Soumaila Cisse greets supporters as he arrives at his home in Bamako, on October 9, 2020, a day after his release.   -  
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MICHELE CATTANI/AFP or licensors

Mali

An intermediary involved in the October release of four hostages in Mali claims that Malian officials paid 2 million euros to jihadists for one of the hostages, the late Malian opposition leader, Soumaïla Cissé.

In an interview with French public radio broadcaster, Radio France International, Tuareg Ahmada Ag Bibi, a former member of a jihadist armed group himself, also claimed that Malian authorities had not paid a ransom for the three other hostages.

The three include a Frenchwoman Sophie Pétroni and two Italians. It is unclear whether any money was paid by any party other than Malian authorities.

As at the time of filing this report, there has been no reaction from the military-dominated transitional authorities.

Despite persistent rumors, the Malian government has never confirmed payment of a ransom in addition to the release of 200 prisoners. France has always denied having been involved in the negotiations, and having paid a ransom for Ms. Petronin.

Ahmada Ag Bibi, a former member of parliament, who had previously acted as an intermediary in such operations, is believed to have played a prominent role leading to the release of the hostages in October.

Ahmada Ag Bibi said that the Malian state released 190 prisoners, while those who were holding the hostages initially demanded twice as many. The Malian state has refused to release certain jihadist figures, he said.

The transitional authorities have said they are in favor of dialogue with some jihadists to try to get the country out of the turmoil.

Bibi says he has not been approached by Bamako since October to act as an intermediary, adding that he is "ready to provide the service" if the Malian state approaches him again.

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