Malian opposition leader Soumalia Cissé dies of Covid-19

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Malian opposition leader Soumaila Cissé has died of coronavirus aged 71, his family and party said on Friday. The announcement comes two months after Cissé was released by jihadists, who held him hostage for six months.

"I can confirm this terrible news. He's dead," a leader of Cissé's URD party told AFP, saying the politician's wife had let him know.

Cissé was snatched by jihadists on 25 March while campaigning in the northeastern Timbuktu region ahead of legislative elections.

He was freed six months later 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," Cissé said following his release.

Long-time opposition leader

A former leader of the opposition in parliament, Cissé 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, Cissé studied in Senegal and France, where he worked for major companies including IBM before returning to Mali.

(with AFP)