Qaeda extends deadline to kill French captive: US monitors

11th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Al-Qaeda's north African branch issued an Internet message on Sunday granting France an "extension" on a deadline it had set to kill a Frenchman kidnapped in Niger, US monitors reported.

"The mujahedeen (holy warriors) decided to grant a final extension to France that will not be repeated and will not exceed 15 days, starting on Monday," said the statement posted on Jihadist websites and carried by the monitors SITE Intelligence.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, said it captured the man, who in an earlier audio recording identified himself as 78-year-old Michel Germaneau, in northern Niger on April 22, SITE said.

The Islamic extremists had demanded a prisoner exchange in a message released on May 13.

Unless the demands were met, "France will have sentenced its citizen to death and (President Nicolas) Sarkozy will have absolutely decided to commit the same folly" as former British prime minister Gordon Brown, it said.

AQIM killed British tourist Edwin Dyer in June 2009, after holding him captive for six months, when London refused to yield to the extremists' demands.

The group concluded their statement by saying: "We have done our best to find a satisfactory solution. He who warns is excused."

The Frenchman was kidnapped along with an Algerian in northern Niger in mid-April.

Niger security sources said later that the Algerian, who had been a driver for Germaneau, was released later that month.

French authorities have said the man was kidnapped on April 19 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

On June 9, Mauritania's defence minister, Hamadi Ould Baba Ould Hamadi, ruled out freeing Al-Qaeda prisoners in return for Western hostages.

In addition to the Frenchman, AQIM -- which operates in the desert areas of Mali, Mauritania and Algeria -- is holding two Spanish hostages, Albert Vilalta, 35 and Roque Pascual, 50, who were kidnapped in November 2009.

The kidnappers seek ransoms worth millions of dollars as well as the release of Islamist prisoners -- specifically in Mauritania -- in return for the release of the hostages.

© 2010 AFP

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