Al-Qaeda demands France leave Afghanistan in return for hostages
A branch of al-Qaeda has called on the French government to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan in return for the safety of five French hostages kidnapped in Niger, in a message broadcast by al-Jazeera late Thursday.
"If you want the hostages to be safe, then you should quickly withdraw your forces from Afghanistan according to a set timetable that you will announce publicly," the leader of al-Qaeda's North African wing said in the message, DPA reported.
Abu Musab Abdel-Wadoud also said that any negotiations over the release of the hostages should be carried out directly with al-Qaeda's leader, Osama bin Laden, according to al-Jazeera's website.
Five French nationals and two Africans were kidnapped in Niger in September.
Last month bin Laden reportedly said in an audio tape that France's "injustice" towards Muslims and a recent ban on face veils were the motivation behind the abduction.
French troops in North Africa are working with local governments to combat militant groups, including al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the local offshoot of the global terrorist organisation.
AQIM claimed responsibility for the killing in July of Michel Germaneau, a 78-year-old Frenchmen who was being held hostage.