N African Qaeda warns against hostage rescue bid
Rabat: Al-Qaeda's North African branch warned
Western states including France today against a military bid
to rescue hostages kidnapped in Mali, citing "information" of
plans for such an operation.
"We send a warning to France, Britain, the Netherlands and
Sweden: if they authorise this operation it will mean the
death of their nationals and amount to an attempt on their
lives," it said in a statement in Arabic.
"According to information we have received, the alliance
of crusaders led by France which supports certain regimes like
those of Algeria and Mauritania, is preparing an imminent
military operation to free their hostages."
The statement was carried by
a news agency in Mauritania which has published several
AQIM statements in the past. These have never been disclaimed.
"We would like to state that we are searching a peaceful
solution to this issue of the hostages," it added.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), has claimed the
kidnapping last November of two Frenchmen in the northern
Malian town of Hombori, and another three Westerners a day
later in Timbuktu, also in the north of the West African
Frenchmen Philippe Verdon and Serge Lazarevic, who
described themselves as a geologist and an engineer but were
later identified as having had ties with mercenaries, were
taken from their hotel in the middle of the night.
A day later, an armed gang snatched a Swede, a Dutchman
and a man with dual British-South African nationality from a
restaurant on Timbuktu's central square and killed a German
with them who tried to resist.
Twelve Europeans, including six French nationals, are
being held hostage in the Sahel strip of northwest African
nations on the southern edge of the Sahara.
This zone is difficult to patrol and monitor and AQIM has
carried out many attacks on troops, kidnappings of Westerners
and trafficking of various kinds, including drugs.
The group was started in the late 1990s by radical
Algerian Islamists who sought the overthrow of the Algerian
government to be replaced with Islamic rule.
AQIM was linked to al-Qaeda in 2006.
On December 9, the organisation published two photos of
hostages surrounded by armed men.
One photo was of the Lazarevic and Verdon, the other
showed the three snatched from Timbuktu.
A previously unknown al-Qaeda splinter group calling
itself the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, has
claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of two Spaniards and
an Italian in October from a camp for Sahrawi refugees near
Tindouf in southern Algeria.