Mali opposition leader abducted with campaign team in north

FILE - This Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018 file photo released by the Union for the Republic and Democracy party shows Soumaila Cisse, opposition presidential candidate, casting his ballot during the presidential second round election in Niafunke, Mali. The leader of Mali's political opposition and members of his campaign team have been taken hostage by unidentified gunmen in the north, the spokesman for his political party said Thursday, March 26, 2020.

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — The leader of Mali's political opposition and members of his campaign team have been taken hostage by unidentified gunmen in the north, the spokesman for his political party said Thursday.

Soumaila Cisse’s bodyguard died from injuries sustained during the abduction and two others are injured, according to spokesman Demba Traore. They are being treated.

"At the moment, Soumaila Cissé and some members of his campaign team are still being held hostage," Traore said. They were abducted in the Niafunke circle area where he was campaigning for Sunday's legislative elections.

The kidnapping has not been claimed but took place in an area controlled by extremist groups linked to al-Qaida.

The Malian government said in a statement that "all practical arrangements are being made to find the missing personalities and bring them back to their families.”

The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali said it has deployed an MD500 helicopter to search for Cissé at the army’s request.

Cissé placed second in the 2018 presidential election.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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