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Mali releases three women from among 49 detained Ivorian soldiers

A picture shows a woman walking in front of the hospital in Gao, Mali on Oct 14, 2020.
(MICHELE CATTANI / UNOCHA)

BAMAKO/ABIDJAN – Three women, who were among 49 Ivorian soldiers detained in Mali, were released on Saturday, state television said, around seven weeks since the arrest of the troops sparked a diplomatic spat between the West African neighbors.

The soldiers were detained at the Malian capital Bamako's international airport on July 10. Mali's junta said they had flown in without permission and were seen as mercenaries.

The soldiers were detained at the Malian capital Bamako's international airport on July 10. Mali's junta said they had flown in without permission and were seen as mercenaries

Cote d’Ivoire, which has repeatedly requested their release, says the soldiers had been deployed as part of a security and logistics support contract signed with the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali.

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Both Malian and Ivorian state TV said three women in the group had been freed.

The women are expected to fly into Cote d’Ivoiret's commercial capital Abidjan via Togo later on Saturday, according to the Ivorian broadcaster, which gave no further details.

Mali is struggling to rein in an Islamist insurgency, which took root after an uprising and a coup in 2012 and has since spread to neighboring countries, killing thousands and displacing millions across West Africa's Sahel region and coastal states.

The military junta ruling Mali since August 2020 has been at odds with regional and international neighbors for failing to hold promised elections and delaying a return to constitutional rule.

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