Friday, September 16, 2011

Group Linked to al-Qaeda Continues to Hold Hostages in Niger, Negotiations Stalled

Four Frenchmen held by by a North African terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda have now been in captivity for a year, with negotiations stalled as the chaos in Libya continues. On September 16, 2010, seven individuals were abducted by a group known as al-Qaeda Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in a uranium mining town, Arlit, in northern Niger. The seven included a senior employee with the French mining group, Areva, and his wife. The other five, employed by an Areva subcontractor, included three Frenchmen as well as a Togolese and a Malagasy.

COMMENT: On February 24, the woman and the two Africans were released at a desert location where the borders of Niger, Mali and Algeria intersect. Yet, Daniel Larribe, Thierry Dole, Marc Feret and Pierre Legrand are still being held by the group, as their families are demanding a more concrete explanation of what is being done to secure their release.

AQIM does not appear to have modified its demands since it released a video of the hostages urging French President Nicolas Sarkozy to pull his troops out of Afghanistan, something the French president promptly ruled out. Nevertheless, France has since announced its intention to withdraw roughly 25% of its forces by the end of 2012. Despite this development; however, the hostage-takers' demand is the payment of 90 million euros (US$125 million dollars), which Paris has also publicly rejected. North African kidnappings are not uncommon. In fact, two other French nationals were kidnapped in the capital of Niamey earlier this year before being executed in Mali.

No comments: