Qaeda says it did negotiate with France over hostage: SITE
Al-Qaeda in north Africa insists that it had negotiated with France over the release of a kidnapped Frenchman before he was killed and that its demands had been clear, the SITE monitoring service said on Thursday.
"The organisation was in constant contact (with France) through intermediaries," said a SITE translation of an Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) statement released by the group on Thursday.
"France knew very well the demands of the organisation that were offered for the release of the captive," it said.
AQIM referred in the statement to Pierre Camatte, a Frenchman kidnapped by the group but released in February 2010, as evidence that it would negotiate.
"The experience of Pierre Camatte, which ended with his release, proves that the mujahedeen (holy warriors) do not resort to killing unless France decides as such with its foolishness," the statement said.
The French authorities never said they were in negotiations for the release of Michel Germaneau, a 78-year-old aid worker who was abducted in northern Niger on April 19.
The Al-Qaeda offshoot said it had executed Germaneau on July 24 in revenge for the killing of six of its members in a failed Mauritanian-French rescue raid in Mali.
French Defence Minister Herve Morin said later that Paris had had no direct negotiations with Germaneau's captors, while Prime Minister Francois Fillon said the gang may have killed the hostage nearly two weeks before the raid.
"We never had any specific claims" from them, Morin said at the time on France Inter radio. "They even refused any discussion aimed at getting him the medicines he needed for his heart problems."
In Mali, a local elected official told AFP that Germaneau had been beheaded after the raid, in the presence of Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, the leader of an AQIM cell that has been blamed for killing Briton Edwin Dyer in 2009.
France is the former colonial ruler of most of the Sahel, and retains influence with regional leaders.
Paris has military cooperation agreements with its former West African colonies, and helps to train and coordinate local anti-terror forces, in an area which receives around 30,000 French tourists per year.
© 2010 AFP