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Kidnapped Election Officials in Mali Set Free

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Officials in Mali say all individuals abducted by gunmen in the northern part of the country have been set free.

Five people, including four election officials, were kidnapped Saturday in the town of Tessalit, a week before a presidential poll aimed at restoring democracy, peace and unity in the country.

Malian authorities have blamed the kidnapping on the ethnic Tuareg separatist group, MNLA. Officials have arrested one of its leaders, Baye Ag Diknane, in connection with the crime.

The MNLA launched its fight for an independent Tuareg state in northern Mali in January 2012. When disgruntled soldiers overthrew Mali's central government that March, it allowed the MNLA and al-Qaida-linked Islamist militants to take control of the north.

The Islamist rebels pushed aside the MNLA a few months later, before French and African forces drove the Islamists out of the region earlier this year. The militants signed a cease-fire with the government last month.

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