Qaeda threatens to execute French captive: US monitors
Al-Qaeda's north African branch issued an Internet message on Sunday threatening to kill a French hostage kidnapped in Niger unless Paris meets demands within 15 days, US monitors reported.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, -- which had demanded a prisoner exchange in a message released on May 13 -- said France faced a 15-day "deadline" starting from Monday.
"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.
"At the end of this period and the non-response to our legitimate demands, then France will have sentenced its citizen to death," the statement said.
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.
French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told AFP that the government was mobilised on the case "in Paris and on the ground."
"You understand that the discretion we are observing is a condition of our efficient work," Valero said.
AQIM said that French President Nicolas "Sarkozy will have absolutely decided to commit the same folly" as former British prime minister Gordon Brown, if he did not heed the group's demands.
The Islamists killed British tourist Edwin Dyer in June 2009, after holding him captive for six months, when London refused to yield to their demands.
"We again repeat our call to the public opinion of France and the family of the kidnapped to put pressure on their uncaring government," the group said in Sunday's statement.
"Here is the last chance of the mujahideen that is priceless and the extension will not be repeated to save this man.
"We have done our best to find a satisfactory solution. He who warns is excused," it concluded.
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