Islamist militants in Mali have claimed responsibility for kidnapping three workers from the International Committee of the Red Cross, Agence France-Presse reported.

Ansar Dine took the workers near the northern Mali town of Kidal last weekend, AFP reported, citing the militants. The Red Cross said it lost contact with three employees this weekend that were returning too Kidal.

United Nations peacekeepers and French troops patrol northern Mali alongside Malian soldiers since 2013 in an effort to prevent militants including al-Qaeda from gaining ground in the mostly dry and desolate region. The militants have planned and led attacks on three hotels in Mali, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast since November, killed more than 70 people.

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