AQIM Releases Recent Video of 4 French Hostages taken from Niger in 2010

Otages-francais-au-Niger
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Sahara Medias website [ar] in Mauritania has released this video of four of the six French hostages being held by AQIM in or around Mali. These four were abducted from the Arlit uranium mine in Niger in September 2010, along with three  others who were since released. Once again, they plead for protection from the French authorities. The video was released after relatives of the four confirmed their identities.
It’s possible that the kidnappers felt this additional message was necessary after the previous one referred to the former president, Sarkozy. The good news is that the existence of the video gives renewed hope that the hostages might still be alive, or at least were alive in the past couple of weeks. Each man appeared to be in a different location. One hostage, Pierre Legrand, mentioned “700 days” which would indicate the date of the video as on or near 16 August 2012. Pierre even managed to include a statement to please conspiracy theorists: saying he had been in Niger for a “specific purpose, not as a tourist” – which I guarantee will be interpreted to support existing theories that he is some kind of agent. Daniel Larribe states in his section that “it’s Wednesday, August 29, 2012, and we have been here nearly two years”. Thierry Dole did not look well and said he had been unable to get his medication for 63 days. The hostages mentioned other numbers – Larribe, for example, having missed a relative’s 94th birthday and a 40th wedding anniversary, while Thierry Dole said 714 days in captivity- all of which will generate a whiff of intrigue, in case the numbers could have some special relevance.

The video appeared in Mauritania at an opportune moment, just as the French Foreign Ministry’s Special Envoy for the Sahel, Jean Felix-Paganon, arrived in Nouakchott. I hope he and the French authorities take the hostages’ messages to heart, especially the part where they beg them not to mount an attack and to continue negotiations. Perhaps they have heard about the deaths of other hostages during “rescue” attempts. If so, they have good reason to be equally afraid of a bungled rescue as of being killed by their captors.

AFP notes that the four were among seven people kidnapped from the uranium mining town of Arlit in northern Niger in September 2010 by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) while working for Satom, a subsidiary of the French nuclear group Areva.

Three of them — a Togolese and a Madagascan and Larribe’s wife Francoise — were released the following February.

Legrand’s grandfather Rene Robert told AFP after seeing the video that he and other relatives of the hostages had identified them.

“The hostages are tired, and even exhausted, but they are alive,” he said.

Sources say that AQIM has demanded 90 million euros in ransom for the four, who in recordings released in April last year urged then French president Nicolas Sarkozy to withdraw French troops from Afghanistan in line with an AQMI demand.

Under Sarkozy’s successor Francois Hollande, Paris has speeded up the withdrawal with 2,000 combat troops to be pulled out by the end of the year.

Two Frenchmen were also kidnapped last November by AQIM in Mali’s northern town of Hombori, where they were working as geologists for a Malian company.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the hostages were not being held together.

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