Al-Qaeda sets deadline to kill French hostage in Mali
Al-Qaeda's North African branch threatened to kill a French citizen held by the group in Mali if the government did not release four imprisoned al-Qaeda militants, a statement circulated Monday said, DPA reported.
The Frenchman was abducted from a hotel in the northern Mali town of Menaka, some 1500 kilometres from the capital Bamako, on November 25.
"Let France and Mali be forewarned that we give 20 days to fulfill our just demand, or the two governments shall be fully responsible for the life of the French hostage," al-Qaeda warned in a written statement circulated by the private, US-based monitoring group IntelCenter Monday.
Al-Qaeda said its "only demand" for the release of the French national was the release of four al-Qaeda militants held in the desert country.
Mali, Mauritania and Algeria have long battled al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist groups in the remote desert region straddling their borders.
In recent months, the groups have moved into abductions as a means of securing money and political demands, security officials in the three countries say.
Mauritanian security officials have said they believe three Spanish aid workers captured in Mauritania in November have been taken across the border into Mali.
"We have said so on many occasions. Spain does not pay ransoms. Our position is clear and firm," Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos told reporters when asked about efforts to free them during a visit to Algeria last week.
Two weeks ago, al-Qaeda released a photograph of two Italian hostages captured in Mauritania in December along with a statement demanding the release of al-Qaeda militants in that country.