Mali charges four with kidnapping over abduction of Colombian nun

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Malian authorities have charged four people with kidnapping over the abduction of a Colombian nun, a prosecutor said on Wednesday.

Gloria Cecilia Argoti was seized by armed men on Feb. 7 from the southern region of Karangasso where she had been working in a health center, about 300 km (186 miles) east of the capital Bamako. She has not been seen since.

“I confirm the indictment of four people on the grounds of kidnapping the Colombian Gloria Cecilia,” Boubacar Sidiki Samake, an anti-terrorism prosecutor, told Reuters.

Samake declined to provide details about those arrested but a security source, who declined to be named, said they are connected to the Catholic parish from which Argoti was abducted.

Investigators have previously said they suspect Islamist militants could be responsible.

Kidnapping has become a lucrative source of cash for groups like Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and al Mourabitoun. The latter is suspected of kidnapping a French-Swiss aid worker from the northern city of Gao in December.

Islamist militants, who seized northern Mali in 2012 before being driven back by French forces the following year, have regrouped and are increasingly conducting raids in southern and central Mali, areas previously deemed safe.

Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Wednesday that a wave of killings in Mali by Islamist groups, self-defense militias and government soldiers have resulted in at least 52 deaths since January.

Reporting By Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Janet Lawrence