Spain paid eight million euros to Qaeda offshoot: report

13th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Spain paid an eight-million-euro ransom to free three nationals snatched by Al-Qaeda in north Africa, an Algerian government adviser was quoted as saying in Monday's El Mundo daily.

It was reportedly the biggest sum paid by any country to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the North African branch of Osama bin Laden's network.

Madrid has never acknowledged paying a ransom for the three volunteers of Catalan aid group Accio Solidaria, kidnapped in November 2009 in Mauritania by the group and then held in northern Mali.

But an advisor to the Algerian president on terrorism issues, Kamel Rezag Bara, told El Mundo that Spain had paid a total of 8.0 million euros (10 million dollars) for the release of the three in March and August.

This compared with 3.6 million euros paid by Italy for the release in May of two hostages and 2.5 million euros paid by Austria in April 2009 for the release of two of its citizens, he said.

France and Britain say they refuse to pay ransoms to the network, which killed 78-year-old French aid worker Michel Germaneau in July and decapitated British national Edwin Dyer in June 2009.

Last month French President Nicolas Sarkozy said governments must do more to fight North African terrorism than simply paying ransoms to Al-Qaeda kidnappers, in what was seen at the time as a jab at Spain.

Algerian President Abelaziz Bouteflika last year urged the United Nations General Assembly to impose "a total ban on the payment of ransoms to hostage-takers, who have reached worrying numbers in recent years."

© 2010 AFP

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