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Mali Releases 180 Jihadists In Likely Prisoner Exchange

FILE - This Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018 file photo released by the Union for the Republic and Democracy party shows Soumaila Cisse, opposition presidential candidate, casting his ballot during the presidential second round election in Niafunke, Mali. The leader of Mali's political opposition and members of his campaign team have been taken hostage by unidentified gunmen in the north, the spokesman for his political party said Thursday, March 26, 2020. (Boubacar Sada Sissoko/Union for the Republic and Democracy via AP, File)

FILE - This Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018 file photo released by the Union for the Republic and Democracy party shows Soumaila Cisse, opposition presidential candidate, casting his ballot during the presidential second round election in Niafunke, Mali. The leader of Mali's political opposition and members of his campaign team have been taken hostage by unidentified gunmen in the north, the spokesman for his political party said Thursday, March 26, 2020. (Boubacar Sada Sissoko/Union for the Republic and Democracy via AP, File)

Malian authorities have released 180 Islamic extremists from a prison in the capital and flown them to the country's north, an official confirmed late Sunday, fueling speculation that a prominent opposition politician held by jihadists could soon be freed after more than six months in captivity.

BAMAKO, Mali: Malian authorities have released 180 Islamic extremists from a prison in the capital and flown them to the country’s north, an official confirmed late Sunday, fueling speculation that a prominent opposition politician held by jihadists could soon be freed after more than six months in captivity.

The militants who abducted Soumaila Cisse back in late March were believed to be seeking a prisoner exchange with the Malian government. Some 70 men were released on Saturday and another 110 on Sunday, according to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Cisse, a 70-year-old who has run for Mali’s presidency three times, was campaigning ahead of legislative elections not far from Timbuktu at the time of his abduction. His bodyguard was killed in the attack, and the only proof of life has been a handwritten letter delivered back in August.

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