A local official and a Tuareg separatist say Islamic extremists have released three staffers from the International Committee of the Red Cross being held in northern Mali.

Both said the staffers were freed early Friday. The two spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

The staffers were originally kidnapped by the jihadi Ansar Dine group on Saturday.

According to the separatist, the team had earlier been stopped by French soldiers near the village Abeibara and their guide and his apprentice were detained. The Red Cross staffers were allowed to continue.

The jihadis then kidnapped the staffers near Kidal, insisting the guide and his apprentice be freed.

Ansar Dine allied with Al Qaeda and took over much of Mali's north before a 2013 French-led a military intervention.