Abidjan – Ivory Coast has accused Bamako of “hostage taking” after its neighbour laid out conditions for the release of 46 Ivorian soldiers held in Mali for two months.
“It’s a hostage-taking that will not remain without consequences,” a source close to the Ivorian presidency told AFP on Sunday, adding that Ivory Coast would continue to seek a solution through “diplomatic channels”.
Ivory Coast says the 49 troops were sent on a routine rotation for personnel who provide back-up services for the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, and has called for their release.
Three women in the group were released according to an announcement earlier this month.
The arrest of the soldiers after their arrival at Bamako airport on July 10 has sparked a diplomatic crisis between Mali and its West African neighbour.
Mali’s military-led government says the troops had had no orders or supporting documents and has described them as “mercenaries”.
In mid-August, Malian prosecutors filed charges against all 49, including for alleged conspiracy and harm to state security. Talks to secure their release are ongoing.
Diplomatic sources close to the talks say Mali is demanding that Ivory Coast acknowledge its responsibility in the affair and express its regrets for the deployment of the soldiers.
Bamako also wants Abidjan to hand over people who have been on its territory since 2013 who are wanted in Mali, said the sources.
Ivory Coast has rejected both demands and is preparing for extended negotiations to free its men, they added.