French aid worker kidnapped in Mali

Sophie Petronin was abducted in the city of Gao on Saturday

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A Frenchwoman who runs an aid group has been kidnapped in Mali’s restive north, the French foreign ministry confirmed on Sunday.

Sophie Petronin was abducted in the city of Gao on Saturday, the ministry said, adding that French and Malian authorities were working together “to find and free our compatriot as quickly as possible.”

Petronin was the director of a non-governmental organization that helps children suffering from malnutrition, the ministry said, adding that officials were in contact with her family.

Malian officials had on Saturday reported the kidnapping of a woman with dual French and Swiss nationality in Gao, but the Swiss foreign ministry said Sunday there was no indication that Petronin held Swiss citizenship.

Northern Mali fell to jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda from March 2012. These forces were driven out of key towns by a French-led military intervention the following year.

Barely a week goes by without attacks on security forces despite a peace pact signed last year following lengthy negotiations between the government, groups backing it and ethnic Tuareg rebels. Kidnappings, however, are rare.

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