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Mali releases some detained Ivorian soldiers

MINUSMA officials in Mali, photo by DW

Three women, who were among 49 Ivorian soldiers detained in Mali have been released.

The women arrived home late on Saturday about seven weeks after their arrests sparked a diplomatic spat between military-ruled Mali and the Ivory Coast.

Mali detained the group on arrival at the airport in the Malian capital, Bamako, on July 10, alleging they had flown in without permission and were mercenaries.

Ivory Coast had repeatedly requested their release, saying the soldiers were unfairly arrested after being sent to provide backup for the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA.

They say their role within the mission was “well-known to the Malian authorities”.

A statement from Mali’s public prosecutor Samba Sissoko on Saturday said the magistrate in charge of the case had approved a request for the release of the three soldiers and the dropping of charges against them.

One of the released soldiers, Sita Bamba, has called for freedom for her fellow troops.

“We are sad because our friends are still there and we hope to be able to retrieve them very soon”, she said following her return home.

Mediating talks

According to Aljazeera, Togolese foreign minister Robert Dusse, whose country has been mediating talks, told reporters on Saturday that the three women were “released as a humanitarian gesture” by Mali’s leader, Colonel Assimi Goita.

“I would like to announce that the president of the transition, President Assimi Goita of Mali, has agreed… to proceed with the release of some prisoners,” Dusse said.

He said “discussions are under way to ensure that the other soldiers in detention can very quickly regain their full freedom”.

Dusse was speaking in the Togolese capital, Lome, alongside Mali’s foreign minister, Abdoulaye Diop, and Ivory Coast’s cabinet director, Fidele Sarassoro.

Writing by Annabel Nwachukwu