Mali hostages in video appeal for negotiated release
A video of two hostages, a Malian judge and a soldier kidnapped by armed men, was released Tuesday in which they asked the government to free jihadists and impose sharia to secure their release.
District judge Soungalo Kone and soldier Mamadou Diawara -- who both had short white beards and wore turbans -- spoke for six minutes without men, neither mentioning the name of their captors.
"I am judge Soungalo Kone, kidnapped in Niono," said the president of the Niono district court, who then recited some verses from the Koran.
Kone said he would be freed if Bamako released imprisoned jihadists and applied sharia law across the country.
Kone was abducted in November by armed men from his house in Niono, 340 km north east of the capital Bamako, according to a local police source.
Diawara was captured during an ambush on the military and also spoke in the video, saying they were being "well treated".
Attacks on figures of state authority are common in northern and central Mali, where a jihadist insurgency and the near absence of government functions have fuelled lawlessness.
One of Mali's most senior judges, High Court Chief Justice Abdrahamane Niang, narrowly avoided death when his convoy was ambushed in Mopti, central Mali, on October 31.
Jihadists were accused of killing his driver, while five soldiers dispatched to the scene died when their vehicle triggered a mine explosion.
Mali's current instability is linked to the fall of northern cities in 2012 to Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists, who were routed by a French military intervention in 2013.
Although the jihadists no longer control cities, they have continued to mount attacks and aggravate tensions within communities.
The country's north and central regions are meanwhile awash with weapons that flowed into Mali from Libya after the fall of Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.