The United Nations on Monday urged Mali to free 46 detained Ivorian soldiers, after the junta in Bamako attacked UN chief Antonio Guterres over his comments on the two-month standoff.

The UN secretariat in a statement voiced “grave concern” and said it “calls for the urgent release of the detained Ivorian soldiers.”

“It strongly supports all efforts to facilitate this release as well as the restoration of confidence and promotion of good neighborliness between the two countries,” it said.

Ivory Coast said that the soldiers were detained on July 10 at the Bamako airport as they flew in to provide backup to the UN peacekeeping force MINUSMA, one of the international body’s largest and most dangerous missions.

The junta insists that they are mercenaries.

Guterres, in a recent interview with French broadcasts RFI and France 24, said it was “obvious” they were not mercenaries, prompting Mali’s junta-appointed prime minister, Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga, to attack the UN chief in his speech to the General Assembly.


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