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Driver of kidnapped Canadian diplomats freed

A locally hired driver who was abducted with two Canadian diplomats in Niger last year has been released in neighbouring Mali, the Malian Defence Ministry said Saturday.

A locally hired driver who was abducted with two Canadian diplomats in Niger last year has been released in neighbouring Mali, an official with the Malian Defence Ministry said Saturday.

The release of Soumana Mounkaila raises hope that the Canadians may soon be released.

They are Robert Fowler — a UN special envoy to Niger who previously served as Canadian ambassador in Italy — and his assistant, Louis Guay.

The vehicle in which the pair were travelling was found Dec. 14 in good working condition about 40 kilometres northeast of Niger's capital, Niamey. Cellphones, a camera and jacket were reportedly found in the vehicle.

The group al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb said in a recorded message that emerged last month that it was holding the diplomats.

At the time, the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa said it was aware of the report, but had no further comment.

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