By G9ija

An abbot and several Catholic laypeople kidnapped in central Mali by armed men have been released, a senior Church official said Wednesday.

The group disappeared on Monday while travelling from the mostly Catholic area of Segue in the central Mali to the funeral of another abbot in the town of San.

Those taken included Abbot Leon Douyon, the chief and deputy mayor of Segue village and two other local residents.

They were released after one of the kidnappers made contact with a young person from Segue, said Cleophas Tienou, a senior Church official from the town of Mopti.

“They’re doing well but the attackers kept their car,” he added.

Kidnappings are common in Mali, which has been struggling to quell a brutal jihadist insurgency which first emerged  in 2012 and has since spilled over into Burkina Faso and Niger.

Central Mali is a particular hotspot for jihadist, inter-ethnic or financially-motivated violence that afflicts the wider Sahel region.

But it is rare for Catholics — a minority of around four percent in the majority-Muslim nation of 19 million — to be kidnapped.

It remains unclear who took the people on Monday and why, although the area is known for jihadist kidnappings.

French journalist Olivier Dubois, abducted in April, is believed to be in the hands of the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM), the biggest jihadist alliance in the Sahel.