Three people kidnapped in Mali were from South Africa, the Netherlands and Sweden, their governments said Saturday, a day after their abduction in a region where al Qaeda agents operate.

Gunmen seized the three and killed a fourth person as the group walked along a street in the northern Mali town of Timbuktu Friday.

In Berlin, the German foreign ministry said that in all probability the person killed in Mali was a German citizen.

Timbuktu, famous as a major trading centre for gold and salt, was once one of Mali's biggest tourist attractions.

But the increased risk of kidnappings, either by Islamists or by local gunmen cooperating with them, has made large tracts of Mauritania, Mali and Niger no-go areas for Westerners.

The Dutch, South African and Swedish foreign ministries each confirmed the nationalities of the captives. Officials said the Dutch victim was a man and the South African was originally from Britain.

We have clearly warned against travel to this area in light of the increased number of kidnappings, Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said Saturday on his blog.

In Mali, President Amadou Toumani Toure said his country would do its utmost to improve regional security but he said international partners had to play a role, notably by addressing the implications of the Libyan war for its close neighbors.

If some say the Libyan war is over, then I welcome that. But they must know that other wars will certainly be started if all the necessary measures are not taken, he told state media.

He did not specify what measures were needed. Neighboring states have for months raised concerns about a spillover of looted weapons from Libya into a region which has several rebel groups as well as al Qaeda-linked guerrillas.

Earlier in the week, two French nationals were kidnapped from their hotel in the same remote desert region.

No one has claimed responsibility for either kidnapping.

(Reporting by Roberta Cowan and Ed Cropley, Tiemoko Diallo in Bamako. Writing by Alessandra Rizzo; Editing by David Cowell)