Gunmen abduct 3 Chinese, 2 Mauritanian workers from construction site in Mali

Gunmen abduct three Chinese nationals and two Mauritanians from a construction site in southwestern Mali.

The assailants stormed the site 55km from the town of Kwala on Saturday, and made off with five pick-up trucks and the hostages, Mali’s Armed Forces (FAMA) said in a statement.

The men also destroyed equipment including a crane and dump trucks belonging to Chinese construction firm COVEC, and Mauritanian road-building company ATTM, according to the army.

A Malian army official, who requested anonymity, told the AFP news agency that the victims were working on road construction in the region.

“The release of all the hostages is our priority,” he said.

Mauritania’s Al-Akhbar news agency reported that the gunmen arrived on motorbikes and burned equipment as well as fuel tanks before withdrawing with captives.

Mali has been struggling since 2012 to contain violence linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) affiliated groups. The fighters have now expanded their operations from their strongholds in the country’s desert north to its centre as well as neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Thousands of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes.

Abductions have also been frequent, both of Malians and of foreigners.

Amid the rising violence, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has asked the Security Council to authorise additional peacekeeping troops for Mali.

Mali is mired in political uncertainty after military officers in May conducted their second coup in nine months.