Abducted Mali election officals released and safe

All five polling officials who were abducted in northern Mali have been released, an official in the Kidal region said Sunday, adding that a Tuareg rebel has been arrested over the kidnapping.

A local official who was snatched at the same time has also been freed, the source told AFP. "All those kidnapped on Saturday have been released and are doing well," he said.

The six people had been at the town hall in Tessalit, a remote town some 200 kilometres (125 miles) north of the flashpoint city of Kidal, to plan the distribution of identity cards to registered voters when they were abducted on Saturday.

The Kidal official said a member of the minority-Tuareg rebel group the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) has been arrested on suspicions that he ordered the kidnapping.

"It was Baye Ag Diknane, an official of the MNLA, who ordered the abduction," he said.

"He is being questioned by the international forces in Tessalit. He has been arrested," said the official, who also hinted that strong pressure had been put on the Tuareg rebels to get them to release the hostages.

An African military source in Kidal also confirmed the release.

After they were snatched, the abductees were blindfolded and driven "in a vehicle with the MNLA flag" for a distance of 150 kilometres, the military official said, citing evidence from one of those taken.

The kidnapping came just over a week before the country goes to the polls in a presidential election.