Mali releases three women from among 49 detained Ivorian soldiers

BAMAKO/ABIDJAN, Sept 3 (Reuters) - 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 neighbours.

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. read more

Ivory Coast, 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.

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

The women are expected to fly into Ivory Coast'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 neighbouring 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 neighbours for failing to hold promised elections and delaying a return to constitutional rule.

Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo and Loucoumane Coulibaly Writing by Alessandra Prentice Editing by Jonathan Oatis

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