A World Health Organization employee was abducted by unidentified assailants in northern Mali, the U.N. agency’s director-general said Tuesday.
Dr. Mahamadou Diawara was kidnapped from his car in the town of Menaka on Monday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference.
“Health workers should never be a target,” Tedros said.
WHO is working with authorities to investigate the abduction.
The West African nation has been battling a decade-long jihadi insurgency that has killed thousands. Jihadi groups linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group have used hostage-taking for ransom as a way to fund operations and expand their presence.
Diawara has been working with WHO in Menaka for three years, providing medical care to communities that are often remote and face security risks and violence, the U.N. said. The driver of his car was attacked but not abducted, and he is recovering.
The kidnapping comes two months after a German priest was taken from Mali’s capital, Bamako. Rev. Hans-Joachim Lohre was abducted in November while preparing to celebrate Mass.
There are multiple armed groups in the Menaka region, but IS has a significant presence there, conflict analysts say.
“While unclear if the group is responsible for the kidnapping, there should be a concern of him being transferred to the group in exchange for money,” said Rida Lyammouri, senior fellow at the Policy Center for the New South, a Morocco-based think tank focused on economic and social policies.