Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Mali: A "Must-Read" Piece from "The New York Times": All Potential Foreign Kidnap Victims

The cash filled three suitcases: 5 million euros (US$6,713,250)!

The German official charged with delivering this cargo arrived here aboard a nearly empty military plane and was whisked away to a secret meeting with the president of Mali, who had offered Europe a face-saving solution to a vexing problem.

Officially, Germany had budgeted the money as humanitarian aid for the poor, landlocked nation of Mali.

In truth, all sides understood that the cash was bound for an obscure group of Islamic extremists who were holding 32 European hostages, according to six senior diplomats directly involved in the exchange.

The suitcases were loaded onto pickup trucks and driven hundreds of miles north into the Sahara, where the bearded fighters, who would soon become an official arm of al-Qaeda, counted the money on a blanket thrown out onto the sand. 

The 2003 episode was a learning experience for all sides. 

Eleven years later, the hand-off in Bamako has become a well-rehearsed ritual, one of dozens of such transactions repeated all over the world.

We thank Rukmini Callimachi for his excellent reporting! 

See the link from The New York Times below: