BAMAKO - Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) holding hostage four French for seven months, calls especially for the departure of French troops from Afghanistan in addition to a ransom of 90 million euros, said Saturday a source close to the mediation.
- "People of AQIM also claimed and especially the departure of French troops from Afghanistan to free the four French hostages still being held. They stressed that," said the source close to the mediation, which included elected officials and Malian Nigerian personalities.
- This requirement for a withdrawal of French troops from Afghanistan had already been made twice by the leader of Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, to which AQIM has made allegiance.
- March 21, the same source close to the mediation had told AFP that AQIM claimed "at least 90 million euros" and the "liberation of prisoners held in several countries" in exchange for the release of the French, a demand which was immediately rejected by France.
- A group of mediators is currently in the stronghold of the kidnappers in an unnamed country in the Sahel, for a new round of negotiations, also said a Malian source close to the case. "These are long and difficult negotiations. We hope very soon to obtain, why not, the release of some hostages," the source added.
- AQIM is holding hostage four French nationals who were among a group of seven people kidnapped Sept. 16, 2010 in Arlit, a uranium mining site in northern Niger, of a French nuclear group Areva.
- On 24 February, three of the hostages (a French, a Togolese and a Malagasy), were released near the junction of the borders between Algeria, Mali and Niger.
- AQIM has bases in Mali where it operates in several countries in the region of Sahel-Saharan desert where it is guilty of the attacks, carries out kidnappings, mostly of Westerners, and engaged in smuggling.