African Al-Qaeda welcomes French Afghanistan pullout

1st July 2011, Comments 0 comments

Al-Qaeda's north African branch, currently holding four French hostages, has welcomed news that hundreds of French soldiers will be pulling out of Afghanistan, a source close to the mediation said Friday.

"The announcement of the coming departure of hundreds of French soldiers from Afghanistan has been well received by the kidnappers of the four French hostages," said the source.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in April released a video demanding French President Nicolas Sarkozy withdraw his troops from Afghanistan as a condition for the release of the hostages, kidnapped nine months ago from northern Niger.

According to sources close to the negotiations, this was accompanied by a ransom demand of 90 million euros ($130 million).

At the time, the demand was rejected by Paris.

The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the kidnappers had informed mediators that the hostages were "doing well."

France announced a week ago that "several hundred" French soldiers would pull out of Afghanistan by the end of the year.

AQIM is also holding Italian tourist Maria Sandra Mariani, 53, kidnapped in southeast Algeria in February.

© 2011 AFP

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