Bin Laden death "bad news" for French hostages: sources

2nd May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Osama bin Laden's death risks delaying and toughening negotiations for the release of four French hostages held by the north African branch of his terrorist network, sources close to the case said Monday.

"It is good news for the fight against terrorism, but bad news for the negotiations to free the French hostages," said a Malian source close to the case.

The hostages were among a group of seven kidnapped by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Niger in September last year.

The others were freed in February, but AQIM is demanding the withdrawal of French troops from Afghanistan for the release of the four French citizens.

"It will be hard, there are those in AQIM who were in touch with bin Laden, his entourage. These people could toughen negotiations," the source added.

In 2007, AQIM swore allegiance to bin Laden, killed overnight in an American operation in Pakistan after a decade-long hunt.

A Niger source also close to the ongoing negotiations said AQIM leaders were likely to mourn bin Laden's death and await the naming of a new Al-Qaeda chief.

"We can say that for the moment, the talks will take time because AQIM has other fish to fry."

On April 27, AQIM broadcast a video of the hostages urging French President Nicolas Sarkozy to pull his country's troops out of Afghanistan, a demand made by bin Laden.

Sources say the kidnappers are also demanding 90 million euro ($13 million) in ransom.

A copy of the video shows a series of photographs of Pierre Legrand, Daniel Larribe, Thierry Dol and Marc Furrer with armed militants standing behind them.

© 2011 AFP

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