BAMAKO, Mali, April 23 (UPI) -- Gilberto Rodrigues Leal, a French citizen held in Mali since 2012, has died, an Islamist militant group said.
In November 2012, Rodrigues Leal was kidnapped by members of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) -- a faction of al-Qaida in Mali -- near the town of Kayes, as he drove through Mali from Mauritania.
A MUJAO spokesman, Yoro Abdul Salam, gave no details regarding Rodrigues Leal, except to say that “in the name of Allah, he is dead.”
The information came two days after French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said, “We haven’t had any news for a long time. We are in constant contact with his family but we are extremely worried.”
MUJAO is one of several groups controlling Mali’s northern desert. France began a military incursion, with 5,000 troops, to defeat the Islamist militants, who by then seized about half of Mali’s territory.
France is currently curtailing its military operations but said it will retrain 1,000 troops in Mali.