A Colombian nun kidnapped in Mali in February remains missing, and authorities still have no information regarding her whereabouts.
Gloria Cecilia Argoti, 56, had been working at an orphanage and health center in Karangasso, a town located about 300 km from Mali's capital Bamako, for six years. In the evening of Feb. 7, armed men broke into the convent and took her.
Argoti's assailants reportedly told the people in the convent that they were jihadists. The men locked up Argoti's assistant and drove the nun away using a car from the convent. Reports said they later left the car and continued on motorbikes.
She has not been heard of since, and no group has claimed responsibility for her abduction. Authorities suspected Islamic militants were behind the kidnapping.
"The area where the religious woman was kidnapped is a quiet area and that is what is surprising," Fr. Edmond Dembele, Secretary General of the Episcopal Conference of Mali, told Fides. "That area of the country has not yet been touched by the insecurity that affects other areas of Mali."
Prior to Argoti's abduction, the town of Karangasso had been considered relatively safe from attacks. World Watch Monitor said the incident indicated that the activity of the militants in Mali has spread. Argoti is the first Latin American national to have been kidnapped by militants in the area, as previous targets were mostly Europeans.
Since she was taken, there had been a prevailing "disquiet and anguish" among the town's inhabitants, according to Dembele. He said "the activities of the parish have been affected."
Because of Argoti's kidnapping, the four other nuns who worked with her in the orphanage had to leave and transfer to a safe place, and the orphanage was forced to close. The work they did for the community stopped, including the running of a health center and the livelihood workshops they provided for the women and children.
Earlier this month, local authorities charged four persons in the kidnapping of Argoti. A source said the four persons were connected with the convent where the Colombian nun stayed, Reuters reported.
"I confirm the indictment of four people on the grounds of kidnapping the Colombian Gloria Cecilia," anti-terrorism prosecutor Boubacar Sidiki Samake told Reuters.
Al Qaeda and al Mourabitoun have turned to kidnapping in Mali as a lucrative source of income. In December last year, al Mourabitoun took French-Swiss aid worker named Sophie Petronin in Gao. In January 2016, a Swiss missionary was also kidnapped in Timbuktu.
The parish continues to hope that Argoti will return to them safely.
"Prayer sessions are organised regularly in all the communities - for the liberation of Gloria and for God to touch the hearts of the captors," Dembele said.