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Ivorian Soldiers' Release Talks "Ongoing"

FILE - Ivory Coast officials address the relatives of the 49 Ivorian soldiers detained in Mali, in Abidjan,. Taken 8.3.2022

Ivory Coast's army chief of staff has told the relatives of 49 soldiers detained in Mali that negotiations were ongoing to release them, the government said Friday.

Mali arrested the soldiers after they arrived at Bamako airport in July, accusing them of being mercenaries, in a case that has fuelled tensions between both countries.

Malian prosecutors have since charged them with alleged conspiracy and attempting to harm state security, and remanded them in custody.

But General Lassina Doumbia on Thursday told their relatives not to worry, the government's official website reported.

"The detention warrant has no bearing on the negotiations, which are continuing," it quoted him as telling them during a meeting in the capital.

There had been "no bad news about their health or conditions of detention", he added, handing each family the equivalent of around $760 in financial support.

Ivory Coast says the soldiers were sent on a routine rotation for personnel who provide back-up services for the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali.

Mali's military-led government has described the troops as "mercenaries" and says they had no orders or supporting documents.