- Gunmen have abducted a French national, Pierre Kamatte, outside his hotel in the north-eastern Mali town of Menaka, government officials have confirmed.
Menaka, where all the westerners are prohibited from visiting is about 1,500 kilometers north of the capital Bamako in the Sahel region which has been the scene of trafficking and smuggling of all kinds by organised crime groups.
Officials said the police were alerted by the hotel management after guards near the hotel heard his cries. French embassy staff and local police officials have reportedly launched a team working towards the release of Mr Kamatte.
Mr Kamatte a humanitarian worker who had been in Menaka since April was reportedly conducting research into malaria in the province of Gao, when he was abducted.
Reports said Mr Kamatte was snatched by armed men as he was leaving his hotel. The kidnappers waited till midnight as the power is usually cut at that hour to save electricity.
The French foreign ministry has warned its citizens of the risk of kidnapping in the region and urged those travelling outside of the capital Bamako to be extra vigilant.
Tuareg rebels and Al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa have been active in the area. In recent years, several western nationals have been kidnapped in neighbouring Niger or in Tunisia and brought to northern Mali.
The group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of two UN staffers in December 2008, and the kidnapping of four European tourists a month later. One of the four Europeans, a Briton, was killed by his captors.
Recently, the United States announced that it would provide Mali's army with millions of dollars worth of military equipment, including weapons, to help the country in its fight against al-Qaeda's North African branch.
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