Catholic Priest Among Five People Kidnapped in Mali

Mali, a predominantly Muslim country with a population of 19.66 million people, has experienced a surge in violence involving both civilians and the military since 2012.

Flag of Mali waves in the wind.
Flag of Mali waves in the wind. (photo: Hybrid GFX / Shutterstock)

MOPTI, Mali — A Catholic priest is among five people kidnapped on Monday in the West African nation of Mali.

ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner, reported that the priest serving in the Diocese of Mopti was abducted alongside four others by gunmen on the morning of June 21. 

The Malian priest Father Alexis Dembélé said June 22 that “the group disappeared on Monday while traveling from Ségué, in the center of the country, to the funeral of Fr. Oscar Thera in the town of San.”

He continued: “We have confirmation that it was a kidnapping by armed men. It is a great concern for the Catholic community in Mali.” 

“The poor road network requires one to go up north and then back down to the south to the town of San.”

The group was abducted about 20 miles north of Ségué, in the vicinity of Ouo.

“The group was made up of Father Léon Douyon, the parish priest of Ségué, Thimothé Somboro, the village chief of Ségué, Pascal Somboro, deputy mayor, and two other members of the community, Emmanuel Somboro and Boutié Tolofoudié,” Dembélé said.

Major Abass Dembélé, the governor of Central Mali’s Mopti region, confirmed the abduction but did not offer further details.

Mali, a predominantly Muslim country with a population of 19.66 million people, has experienced a surge in violence involving both civilians and the military since 2012. 

Kidnappings have become common, with militants seeking either to obtain ransom money or exert political pressure.

The country has seen clashes between the Malian army and a group fighting for independence, as well as jihadist insurgencies led by groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. It has also witnessed inter-communal violence. The fighting has left thousands dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. 

The violence has spread to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Sister Gloria Cecilia Narváez Argoti, a member of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate who was kidnapped in southern Mali in 2017, is believed to be in the hands of jihadists linked to al-Qaeda.

Mali is currently under the leadership of Colonel Assimi Goïta who led two coups in a span of nine months, first ousting the country’s democratically elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta last August and, in May, the interim leaders who were to head the country’s transitional government.

Following the May 24 coup, Mali’s constitutional court named Goïta as transitional president of Mali until the country holds elections.

The move has attracted criticism, with the Catholic Church leaders in the country calling it a “seizure of power outside the legal process.”

The members of the Episcopal Conference of Mali said that they were following “with great concern and sadness” the events that took place in the country following the establishment of a new government last month.

They said: “The bishops in Mali, conscious of the need for a strong executive and a reconciled and reinforced army, strongly condemn the seizure of power outside the legal process.”

“We firmly condemn the current crisis resulting from personal calculations far from the concerns of the people and the interests of Mali.”

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