Dubai: The North African branch of al-Qaeda
has demanded that imprisoned members of the group be released
in exchange for a French national kidnapped in Niger in April,
Al-Jazeera television reported Thursday.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) also for the first
time claimed responsibility for the abduction of the
Frenchman, the Qatar-based satellite channel said.
It asked "France and its allies in the region to release
its prisoners" in exchange for the French national, Al-Jazeera
said, quoting a statement by AQIM published on an Islamist
website. It did not elaborate.
The Frenchman was kidnapped along with an Algerian in
northern Niger in mid-April.
Niger security sources later said the Algerian, who had
been a driver for the Frenchman, was released late April.
French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero has said
the kidnapping took place in a so-called "Red Zone" on the
southern rim of the Sahara desert that tourists are strongly
advised to avoid because of the risk of terrorism.
Valero did not identify the victim, but sources close to
the investigation said he was a male tourist aged in his