BAMAKO : All five polling officials who were abducted in northern Mali have been released, an official in the Kidal region said Sunday. A local official who was kidnapped at the same time has also been released, the official told AFP. "All those kidnapped on Saturday have been released and are doing well," he said.

The six officials had been at the town hall in Tessalit, a remote town some 200 kilometres north of the flashpoint northern city of Kidal, to plan the distribution of identity cards to registered voters when they were abducted. The kidnapping came just days after four people were killed in Kidal in violence between minority Tuaregs and the majority black population. The July 28 election is seen as crucial to re-uniting a country that remains shaken after a March 2012 military coup and a sweeping offensive by Tuareg rebels.

 and their Islamist allies, who captured the entire north before being flushed out with the help of French troops.