Bamako: A radical cell of al Qaeda in the
Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) which has executed two Western
hostages, is threatening the lives of two Spaniards held by
another branch, sources told a news agency on Saturday.
The leader of the cell, Algerian Abdelhamid Abu Zeid "is
currently doing everything possible to endanger the lives of
the two Spanish hostages," a Malian official involved in
negotiating the release of hostages said.
Albert Vilalta, 35, and 50-year-old Roque Pascual were
kidnapped in Mauritania eight months ago and were taken to
Mali where they are being held by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, alias
Belawar. A Spanish woman kidnapped with them, Alicia Gamez,
was released in March.
However Abu Zeid is putting pressure on Belmokhtar to
refuse to release of the two Spaniards, the official said.
Belmokhtar`s motives for kidnapping are mainly financial,
according to AQIM experts, and some think he may be using
pressure from Abu Zeid as a negotiating tactic.
"But we must take the threat seriously," said the
official. "Their situation could quickly worsen."
Abu Zeid`s has taken a hard-line since seven militants
were killed in a joint Franco-Mauritanian military raid on
July 22 on his AQIM who were holding a Frenchman hostage.
Three days later the militants announced they had killed
the hostage, Michel Germaneau, 78.
Abu Zeid`s cell also executed Briton Edwyn Dyer 14 months