Security forces in Mali have freed three Chinese nationals abducted from a construction site in the north of the country in July, the presidency said on Monday.

Iran Press/Africa: The release of the three Chinese nationals was made possible by the joint efforts of the defense and security forces, the special forces and the financial intelligence services, the office of the President of Finance said in a statement on Monday night.

On July 17, the three Chinese nationals from the COVEC construction company were seized by unknown gunmen alongside two Mauritanians with ATTM, a road-building company, 55 km (34 miles) from the town of Kwala.

“While saluting the courage of the three former hostages, the president … also congratulated the various armed forces for their professionalism,” Mali’s presidency said in a statement on Facebook.

Kidnapping has been a lucrative source of cash for Islamist groups in West Africa’s Sahel region, where they are waging an expanding insurgency against national armies, French forces and UN peacekeepers.

UN troops in Mali (MINUSMA) and French troops have been in Mali since mid-2013, but they have not done much to stabilize the country and terrorist threats remain in Mali. 219