Al-Qaeda demands prisoners swapped for French hostage: TV
The North African branch of Al-Qaeda has demanded that imprisoned members of the group be released in exchange for a French national kidnapped in Niger in April, Al-Jazeera television reported Thursday.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) also for the first time claimed responsibility for the abduction of the Frenchman, the Qatar-based satellite channel said.
It asked "France and its allies in the region to release its prisoners" in exchange for the French national, Al-Jazeera said, quoting a statement by AQIM published on an Islamist website. It did not elaborate.
The Frenchman was kidnapped along with an Algerian in northern Niger in mid-April.
Niger security sources later said the Algerian, who had been a driver for the Frenchman, was released late April.
French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero has said the kidnapping took place in a so-called "Red Zone" on the southern rim of the Sahara desert that tourists are strongly advised to avoid because of the risk of terrorism.
Valero did not identify the victim, but sources close to the investigation said he was a male tourist aged in his seventies.
© 2010 AFP