Mali opposition leader Soumaila Cisse has been kidnapped and is being been held hostage days before an election.
Cisse, along with six members of his team, was abducted while on the campaign trail and law enforcement officials are reportedly working hard to locate them.
Union for the Republic and Democracy (URD) Party spokesman Demba Traore told reporters that Cisse, who was traveling with a group of 12 people, was grabbed by gunmen who pulled up alongside them in a Jeep.
The Embassy of Canada is concerned by the abduction of Soumaila Cissé and part of his team in Niafunké circle. Our thoughts are with the delegation's families and we hope for their swift release and an investigation to bring those responsible to justice.
— Canada in Mali and Niger (@CanEmbMali) March 27, 2020
Cisse’s bodyguard did not survive the attack.
“During the kidnapping, there was a shooting. Unfortunately, he couldn’t survive his injuries and passed away,” Traore said.
All the arrangements are being made to find the missing people and return them to their families according to a statement released by Mali’s government on Thursday.
Mali has been immersed in conflict since a loose alliance of ethnic Tuareg separatists and Islamist fighters with connections to North African countries Algeria and Libya seized large areas of the north in 2012. The raid claimed thousands of military and civilian lives.
French and United Nations troops have occupied areas of the country, but the conflict in Mali’s center continues to rage on and has spilled over to neighboring countries, Burkina Faso and Niger.
This is Cisse’s third time running for president after serving as the minister of finance.
In 2018, Cisse ran against Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. Cisse received just 18% of the vote, while Keita received 41%. Neither reaching the required 50%. A runoff election was held on August 12, 2018, and Keita was declared the winner with 67% of the vote.
Cisse subsequently mounted a legal challenge in Mali’s constitutional court, alleging “ballot box-stuffing.”
“Soumaila Cisse filed last night (Saturday) around 20 submissions to the constitutional court for ballot box-stuffing, violations of the electoral law and other irregularities,” a spokesman for the candidate told the Agence France-Presse said at the time.
Cisse, who Keita defeated in a 2013 runoff vote, called the results “neither sincere nor credible” and “a fraud.” Keita has remained in power since 2013.