April 17, 2014 / 6:25 PM / 5 years ago

French troops free five aid workers kidnapped in Mali

BAMAKO/PARIS (Reuters) - French troops in Mali on Thursday freed five local aid workers kidnapped in February, the presidents of France and Mali said in a joint statement.

Four of the aid workers work for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The statement said the aid workers were freed near the northern town of Timbuktu and were in good health.

It was not clear at the time who seized the aid workers and the statement did not give any further details, beyond saying they had been captured by a “terrorist group”.

France sent troops into its former colony in early 2013 to drive out al Qaeda-linked Islamic militants after they seized control of the desert north.

But despite the presence of French and U.N. peacekeepers, small pockets of fighters continue to carry out sporadic attacks in the vast, landlocked country.

In an incident that underscored the ongoing security risks, two French radio journalists working in the northern city of Kidal were abducted and killed in November.

Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau in Paris and Adama Diallo in Bamako; Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by Daniel Flynn

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