Qaeda releases audiotape of Frenchman 'captured in Niger'

14th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

The north African branch of Al-Qaeda released an Internet message on Friday in which a man who identified himself as a French national kidnapped in Niger appealed for help, US-based monitors reported.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed to have captured the man, who in an audio recording identified himself as 78-year-old Michel Germaneau, in northern Niger on April 22, according to the monitors SITE.

AQIM said he was a retired engineer who worked in the Algerian oil sector and demanded a prisoner exchange.

The group provided the undated audio recording, which was also carried by IntelCenter, another US organisation that monitors Islamist websites, along with a still picture of the man and an identification card.

The photograph was of an elderly man with a grey beard and wearing a headscarf sitting in front of a black banner bearing the name of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

In the audio message, a man speaking French appealed for his country's President Nicholas Sarkozy to find a solution as he suffered from a heart condition and the heat, and had run out of medicine.

AQIM cautioned Sarkozy that he was "responsible for the life of the captive and must meet the 'legitimate demand' of the mujahedeen," SITE said in a statement.

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 the Frenchman, 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.

The authenticity of Friday's audio message has yet to be confirmed.

© 2010 AFP

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