The foreign ministry has confirmed the kidnapping of a Swiss woman in the northern Mali city of Timbuktu.
A spokesman said on Monday Swiss officials were working with local authorities and others following the kidnapping on Sunday of the woman, reported to be working as a missionary.
He said the ministry had been advising against travel to Mali since 2009 because of the risk of kidnapping.
Almost all westerners have left the north of Mali since Tuareg fighters and an Islamist group with links to al-Qaeda's North Africa branch took control of the area weeks ago. The developments came after Mali's longtime president was ousted in a coup last month.
A spokesman for the group seeking independence said the group had been unaware of the presence of the Swiss woman in the town.
"If we had known she was there, we would have done everything in our power to protect her. We already managed to help evacuate a number of westerners from Timbuktu since we arrived there," Moussa Ag Assarid said.
"What was she doing there anyway with the Islamist group Ansar Dine and AQIM also operating in the area?" he said, using the acronym for al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
The al-Qaeda militants have been responsible for dozens of kidnappings of westerners in the Sahel region over the last five years.
swissinfo.ch and agencies