Eight million euros ransom for Spanish hostages: Mediator

Al Qaeda`s North African branch received around USD 10 million to free two remaining Spanish hostages it held, Malian negotiators involved in their release told AFP on Tuesday.

Bamako: Al Qaeda`s North African
branch received around USD 10 million to free two remaining
Spanish hostages it held, Malian negotiators involved in their
release told AFP on Tuesday.

"From the beginning to end, it was overall about
eight million euros that was paid to the kidnappers of the
Spaniards," said the mediator, who asked not to be named.
Spanish aid workers Albert Vilalta, 35, and Roque
Pascual, 50, returned home to Spain today after being released
by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) following nine
months in captivity.

"Yes, one can say that the Spanish government paid
that amount. Even if it did not pay it all (directly), it will
have to one way or another reimburse the debts of the
countries, people who incurred expenses in the affair," the
negotiator added.

He said it was the same with the 2008-2009
kidnapping by AQIM of the Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler, the
UN special envoy to Niger, with African countries stumping up
money for his release and Canada eventually reimbursing

"Eight million euros, that`s also my figure," said
a northern Malian lawmaker who was also involved in the
negotiations to free the Spanish aid workers.

"That`s what the operation cost the Spanish
government, which didn`t act like the British who didn`t want
to pay. The Spanish paid," he added.
British hostage Edwin Dyer was killed by AQIM in
May 2009.

The Spanish newspaper El Mundo reported today,
without naming its sources, that Madrid paid out nearly seven
million euros to secure the release of Vilalta, Pascual and
39-year-old Alicia Gamez, who was seized along with her
fellow aid workers in Mauritania in November but who was
released in March following an initial ransom payment.

However, a senior Burkina Faso official who had
been involved in the negotiations denied that Spain paid any

"No! No! We didn`t pay any ransom.... We didn`t
pass along any ransom money to AQIM either," said Colonel
Gilbert Diendere, the chief military advisor to President
Blaise Compaore.

The Spanish government strongly denied that a
ransom had been paid following the release of Gamez and made
no reference to ransom payments when it announced yesterday
that the remaining two captives had been freed by AQIM.

AQIM said in an audio statement yesterday that it
released two Spanish hostages after some of its demands were
met, but did no provide further details, the Spanish newspaper
El Pais reported.

Washington: Concerned over the extremist
threat that exists within Pakistan`s borders, the US has asked
Islamabad to take "decisive action" against such elements
operating from its soil.

"We have encouraged Pakistan to take decisive action
to deal with the threat within its borders...," State
Department spokesman P J Crowley said.

Responding to allegations by Afghan National Security
Advisor Rangin Dadfar Spanta that Pakistan continues to mentor
terrorist outfits, Crowley said one cannot look at this in
isolation and through the lens of a zero-sum calculation.

"It is in the United States interest to work with
Afghanistan to deal with a threat that is of direct
consequence to US, a threat from al-Qaeda.

"Likewise, it`s in our interest to work effectively
with Pakistan to deal with that extremist threat that exists
within Pakistan`s borders," he said.

Crowley said the countries in South Asia should work
more effectively together to help reduce the threat of
terrorism to any one of them.

"Does Afghanistan need to have a constructive
relationship with Pakistan? It does. Does Pakistan have to
have a constructive relationship with India? It does," he

"Should all these countries need to avoid a zero-sum
mentality that a gain on one side is necessarily a detriment
on the other? We think that to the extent that these countries
can work more effectively together, that will ultimately help
reduce the threat of terrorism to any one of them," he said.

Crowley was responding to recent media reports that
the Pakistan`s ISI no longer considers India as its top
threat, but considers internal terrorism as its main threat.

"We have certainly encouraged countries in the region
to work collectively together because they confront a shared
threat, and we think some of these challenges can only be
resolved through effective and coordinated action across the
region," Crowley said.


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