Qaeda's north Africa wing calls for revenge against France
Al-Qaeda's north Africa branch called for revenge against France and labelled its President Nicolas Sarkozy an "enemy of God" over a deadly raid last month, in an online message seen by AFP on Monday.
"To the enemy of Allah (God) Sarkozy I say: You have missed your opportunity and opened the gates of trouble on your country," Abu Anas al-Shanqiti, a leader of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), said in a statement posted on jihadist forums.
Six AQIM members were killed in a failed Mauritanian-French raid in Mali on July 22 that aimed to rescue French hostage Michel Germaneau.
Germaneau was not freed in the raid, and AQIM said it executed the 78-year-old on July 24 in revenge for the deaths of its members.
Shanqiti called on tribesmen whose relatives were killed in the raid to "retaliate (against) the apostate traitors, the sons and agents of Christian France."
On August 2, jailed AQIM leader El Khadim Ould Semane also threatened France and Mauritania with retaliation.
"I say to the infidels and French Crusaders... (we) will not rest until French blood has been spilled," Semane had said.
AQIM has insisted it negotiated with France over Germaneau's release, and that its demands were clear.
"The organisation was in constant contact (with France) through intermediaries," AQIM was quoted as saying in an August 5 statement by SITE Intelligence, a US organisation that monitors jihadist websites.
"France knew very well the demands of the organisation that were offered for the release of the captive," it said.
The French authorities never said they were in negotiations for the release of Germaneau, an aid worker abducted in northern Niger on April 19.
French Defence Minister Herve Morin had said Paris 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.
Meanwhile, AQIM on Monday released a Malian soldier and a civilian it had been holding captive, according to administrative and security sources in Mali.
No information was forthcoming about the identity of the civilian freed with the soldier, nor when he was taken captive.
The soldier was abducted on August 10 in the Kidal region, at the same time as a customs worker who was later executed.
A Spanish non-governmental organisation said on Monday that two of its aid workers being held by Al-Qaeda in Mali were still alive, two days after a Malian official said the leader of another AQIM branch was threatening the lives of the hostages.
"We know that the families have been able to see some proof that the hostages are alive," the head of the Barcelona-based Accio Solidaria, Francesc Osan, told Catalan radio station RAC1.
"The only information that (the families) are giving us is that the hostages are well and that negotiations are continuing."
© 2010 AFP