Malian opposition leader Soumaila Cisse has died of coronavirus aged 71, his family and party said Friday, after being held hostage for six months by jihadists earlier this year.
Cisse “died in France, where he had been taken for Covid-19 care,” a member of his family told AFP.
“I can confirm this terrible news. He’s dead,” a leader of Cisse’s URD party told AFP, saying the politician’s wife had let him know.
Cisse was snatched by jihadists on March 25 while campaigning in the northeastern Timbuktu region ahead of legislative elections.
He was freed six months later in October alongside Frenchwoman Sophie Petronin and two Italians.
The hostages were exchanged for some 200 prisoners whose release was demanded by jihadist groups.
“I was not subjected to any violence, either physical or verbal,” Cisse said following his release.
A former leader of the opposition in parliament, Cisse was runner-up in three presidential elections.
In 2013 and 2018, he was defeated by Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who was ousted in an August 18 military coup.
An engineer and IT specialist by training, Cisse studied in Senegal and France, where he worked for major companies including IBM before returning to Mali.