Monday, November 26, 2012

Mali: Latest French Kidnap Victim Appeals to France That Captors Demands Be Fulfilled

Gilberto Rodriguez Leal, 61, a naturalized French citizen who was kidnapped on November 20, after crossing into Mali from Mauritania by car, appealed via video earlier today (November 26), carried by a Mauritanian website, Alakhbar, to comply with the kidnappers' demands, although they were not mentioned in either the video or through other medium.

Leal, bespectacled, unshaven and in grey hair, was flanked in the video by two men carrying assault rifles and wearing uniforms.

Mr. Leal no doubt was reading from a script that went as follows: "My name is Rodriguéz Leal, Gilberto. I was kidnapped in Diema, between Nioro and Bamako, by MUJWA," he said, referring to one of the Islamist groups controlling northern Mali. "I ask that the French government responds quickly to their demands."

COMMENT: The MUJWA stands for the Movement for Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa (generally MUJWA in English, or MUJAO in French). The group emerged in December 2011 and has generally been characterized as a splinter group from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), two groups that control northern Mali.

It is presumed that MUJWA's demands include a substantial ransom payment, as has been demanded from extremist groups in the north in the past.

It is indeed peculiar that MUJWA would distribute a video clip of Leal so soon after his being kidnapped, although keeping in mind that Mali's Prime Minister, Cheick Modibo Diarra, arrived in Paris earlier today to hold talks with Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Tuesday (November 27) to discuss a possible multi-national African military intervention of northern Mali, which France alone is firmly advocating.

It should be emphasized that upwards of a dozen foreign kidnap victims are being held in northern Mali, which could well place such hostages at risk if France is successful in orchestrating a military intervention.

As I have underlined in recent days, all Western travelers are urged to avoid all travel to Mali, particularly if France is successful in organizing a military incursion into the north.