The foreign ministry says it is in touch with the group currently holding a Swiss woman taken hostage in Timbuktu over a week ago, the Swiss News Agency reported on Monday.
The French AFP news agency quoted local sources in Mali as saying she was in the hands of the Islamist group Ansar Dine, which had seized her from her original kidnappers and was ready to release her.
A spokesman for Ansar Dine told a French radio station that the group would let her go as long as she never returned.
The woman has not been named, but it is known she had been living as a Christian missionary in Timbuktu for several years.
A security official in the town said she was kidnapped by a private militia acting as sub-contractors for AQMI – al-Qaeda’s North Africa branch, which has bases in northern Mali.
The kidnappers had taken her out of town, but on the following day were pursued by armed men belonging to Ansar Dine and were forced to abandon her after shots were exchanged.
Ansar Dine, which itself has ties with AQMI, has been in control of Timbuktu since the beginning of April.
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