Al Qaeda branch behind Mali kidnap of two Frenchmen
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is behind the kidnapping of two Frenchmen on November 24 in Hombori in northern Mali, regional security sources told AFP on Wednesday.
"According to cross-referenced information, AQIM is responsible for the kidnapping of two French citizens in Hombori in November," said a Malian security source.
A Niger security source currently in Bamako said: "Those responsible are followers of Abdelkrim Taleb, a leader of a branch of AQIM."
The two sources said this included fighters from Mali, Algeria and western Algeria camps of the Polisario Front, the Western Sahara independence movement.
"AQIM wants to intimidate and become master of the Sahara" desert, said the Malian source, on condition of anonymity. "Last week they interrupted work on a military barracks in northern Mali and ordered the workers to leave."
The north African Al-Qaeda branch has not claimed responsability for the kidnappings of Philippe Verdon and Serge Lazarevic nearly two weeks ago.
The two men, who described themselves as a geologist and an engineer but were later identified as having had ties to mercenaries, were taken from their hotel in the middle of the night.
A day later a German tourist was killed resisting kidnap by armed men who seized three other Europeans in Timbuktu, also in northern Mali.
A source close to the case said those responsible for the Timbuktu kidnapping were not "direct AQIM fighters."
"We are dealing with sub-contractors or a group unknown until now," she added, saying their demands were not known.
An official with Interpol in Mali said on condition of anonymity: "We don't have a clear idea of who is behind Timbuktu. There are hypotheses. Drug traffickers who want to put pressure on Mali to arrest other traffickers? AQIM sub-contractors? New armed group?" he listed.
The fresh kidnappings add to Mali's problems as the west African nation is grappling with the return of thousands of heavily armed fighters who served fallen Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi.
© 2011 AFP