An elderly Italian couple and their son are kidnapped by jihadists in Southern Mali. A Togolese citizen is also reported to have been kidnapped along with the Italians, but authorities say that they are unable to confirm if this is true.
In January 2012, an armed conflict broke out in northern Mali, in which Tuareg rebels took control of a territory in the north, and in April declared the secession of a new state, Azawad. The conflict was complicated by a military coup that took place in March and later fighting between Tuareg and other rebel factions. In response to territorial gains, the French military launched Opération Serval in January 2013. A month later, Malian and French forces recaptured most of the north. Presidential elections were held on 28 July 2013, with a second-round run-off held on 11 August, and legislative elections were held on 24 November and 15 December 2013.
Earlier this year the French pulled out of Mali leaving Russian mercenaries in charge of many disputed areas of the country. These latest kidnappings of foreign citizens could become part of a new trend to help raise finances for the Jihadists in Southern Mali.