Reuters International

DAKAR (Reuters) - Three officials with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have been missing since Saturday in northern Mali, a spokesman for the organization said on Monday.

The arid region is at the centre of a separatist movement and home to Islamist militants some linked to al Qaeda who have staged a series of high profile attacks in Mali and beyond in the past year.

"The ICRC lost contact with one of its vehicles on Saturday," said ICRC spokesman in Bamako Valery Mbaoh Nana. "The last contact we had they told us that they were accosted by someone on a motorcycle."

The officials went missing near the village of Abeïbara as they returned to their base in Kidal. Four were initially missing but one was released on Sunday, he said.

Last year, one ICRC staff member was killed in an attack on an aid truck near Gao in northern Mali claimed by a jihadist group. In 2014, five members of the ICRC team were abducted in northern Mali. They were released two months later.

In 2013, French-led forces drove Islamists out of Mali's northern cities including Kidal. The United Nations has peacekeepers in northern Mali, while France has a military mission in the region whose aim is to combat Islamists.

(Reporting by Marine Pennetier; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Alison Williams)

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