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Election workers kidnapped in Mali's Kidal region

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July 20, 2013 05:09 PM EST | AP

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TIMBUKTU, Mali — Officials say several election workers have been kidnapped by unknown gunmen in northern Mali's troubled Kidal province.

The abductions come as Mali's government tries to extend its authority over the country's vast north following last year's coup and a French-led operation against Islamic militants.

Kidal is the turf of ethnic Tuareg rebels who have agreed to relinquish their claims of independence and allow Mali to hold a July 28 presidential election aimed at restoring constitutional order.

Gamer Dicko, spokesman for the Ministry of Territorial Administration, says six people were nabbed Saturday in Tessalit _five election workers tasked with distributing voter Identifications and the town's deputy mayor.

However, Issaga Kampo, the vice president of the National Independent Electoral Commission, says only three people were taken.