Mali President hailed for Canadian hostage release

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Malian President, Mr. Amadou Toumani Toure, has been hailed for his role in the release of kidnapped Canadian diplomats Robert Fowler and Louis Guay, Canadian diplomats on a United Nations mission in Niger, and two female tourists; a German and a Swiss.

The Malian government negotiated with the diplomats’ captors, using elected officials and tribal chiefs in the Sahel desert region as intermediaries between them and al-Qaeda.

The diplomats after they were freed in northern Mali this week and transported by military vehicles across the desert to the capital, Bamako, stopped over for a reception at the gleaming white presidential palace overlooking Mali’s capital to show appreciation to the President Mr. Amadou Toumani Toure of Mali who fought for their release along with the government of Burkina Faso.

The Malian president who received appreciation from the Canadian government delivered a toast in which he thanked Canada for making Mali one of its biggest recipients of foreign aid, and said he considered it his moral duty to help a friendly nation. Diarra Diakite, spokesman for the president of Mali said “Mali did not pay a single penny in ransom money.” But he declined to say what might have been offered in exchange for the diplomats’ freedom.

Following the release of the kidnapped duo, hopes are high that the al-Qaeda linked group operating along the Niger and Mali boarder will subsequently release a Swiss man and a British man seized along with the Canadian diplomats and the other tourists. The group of tourists was kidnapped along the Mali border with Niger after attending a Tuareg cultural festival in Mali, in January.

Reports claim that the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper told a news conference Wednesday that Canada does not pay ransom or make exchange prisoners for hostages – but he was careful to note that two other countries (Mali and Burkina Faso) participated in the release and subsequently appreciated their efforts.

The freed men have been reported to have shown no sign of physical harm. Their long beards were the only hint of a kidnapping ordeal that began in December. A Canadian official said the two suffered a terrible ordeal. They were not beaten during their months in captivity. “There’s no indication of any physical torture,” said the government official. “We are a bit concerned about the mental or psychological abuse they may have endured.” However, the freed diplomats will return home on a Canadian government aircraft.

According to a Canadian news source, The Record, the plight of faraway Canadians provoked a rare spirit of friendliness in a normally combative parliamentary arena. A government official said NDP Leader Jack Layton and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff approached the prime minister before Wednesday’s question period to discuss the hostages. They asked Harper whether they should raise the issue publicly, and agreed to hold off until the hostages had arrived in a safe location.

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