France working to authenticate hostage video

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France said Friday it was working to establish the authenticity of a videotape in which an Al-Qaeda leader in Africa who is holding five French hostages warns Paris to pull its troops out of Afghanistan.

Abdelmalek Droukdel, the head of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), issued the threat on Al-Jazeera Arabic Television on Thursday, according to the US monitoring group SITE Intelligence.

The tape "is being authenticated now," said French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero. He told AFP that France was "fully mobilised" in an effort to win the release of the five French hostages who were seized in Niger in September along with a Togolese and a Madagascan and are believed to be in capitivity in neighbouring Mali.

According to a SITE translation, AQIM chief Droukdel said: "(If you) want safety for your citizens who are held captive by us, then you have to hasten and take your soldiers out of Afghanistan according to a specific timetable that you announce officially."

© 2010 AFP

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