On Wednesday, June 13, the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), a local Al-Qa'ida affiliate, released proof of life footage of a French NGO-worker, who was abducted in December 2016 in Gao, and of a Colombian nun, kidnapped in February 2017 in Karangasso. According to statements made in the video, which was reportedly filmed on June 7, the French national is not in good health.
It is believed that five other foreign nationals are currently being held captive by Islamist terrorist groups in the Sahel region: a Swiss missionary (abducted in Mali); a Romanian mining worker, an Australian doctor, and an American humanitarian worker (abducted in Burkina Faso); and a German national (abducted in Niger in April). According to a statement released by Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou on June 4, the American and German nationals are likely alive. It is unclear if AQIM is behind all these abductions.
Due to the presence of various armed groups, Mali's northern and central regions remain unstable despite a French-led intervention launched in 2013 that drove many extremists from their strongholds. France maintains approximately 4000 troops stationed throughout the Sahel, in addition to the presence of local military troops.
The security environment in Mali remains complex, particularly in the north and central regions. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to travel.
Due to the underlying terrorist and kidnapping threats prevailing in the country, all those present in Mali are advised to remain discreet regarding personal details, particularly information concerning nationality, employment, family, etc. Individuals are also advised to avoid public events and places frequented by Westerners, to remain vigilant at all times (especially in local markets, now used by terrorists as recruitment grounds), and to report any suspicious objects or behavior to the authorities.
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