In an unprecedented first for a Malian politician of his rank, unidentified gunmen kidnapped the leading opposition figure Soumaila Cisse and his team on Wednesday, March 25 afternoon, his party said.
The Union for the Republic and Democracy (URD) party sounded the alarm later on Wednesday after Cisse failed to turn up to an appointment and was no longer answering his phone.
Cisse is a former finance minister and has run for the presidency three times.
The circumstances of his disappearance remain unclear, but the government and URD members have said it was a kidnapping.
On Thursday morning, URD spokesman Demba Traore told reporters that Cisse was travelling with a group of 12 people on two jeeps when unidentified gunmen abducted them.
Five people were freed on Thursday morning, he said, adding that two of them, including Cisse’s bodyguard, were wounded in a shooting. The bodyguard did not survive his injuries and passed away, Traore said.
Mali has been struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency that erupted in the north in 2012, and which has claimed thousands of military and civilian lives.
Despite the presence of thousands of French and UN troops, the conflict in Mali has engulfed the center of the country and spread to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.