Al Qaeda’s North African wing has confirmed it has extended its deadline for the life of a French hostage and given Italy 25 days to meet its demands for an Italian captive, according to an Internet statement.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said in comments broadcast today that Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) had extended the deadline for the French hostage.
AQIM said in a statement later posted on Islamist websites: “After the end of the first period given to France and Mali by the mujahideen regarding the French hostage, the mujahideen have decided to extend the deadline to Feb. 20.”
“France and Mali will be fully responsible for the life of the captive if demands are not met.”
Frenchman Pierre Camatte was kidnapped in Mali in November, and AQIM has demanded the release of several prisoners held by Mali in return for his life.
The group has also claimed responsibility for the abduction of three Spaniards and an Italian couple.
“The mujahideen decided to demand the release of our prisoners whose names have been given to the Italian negotiator in return for the release of the Italian Sergio Cicala. We give the Italian government 25 days starting from the date of issue of this statement,” the group said.
“We ask this government, involved in a war against Islam and Muslims, to be well aware that it has to be serious in dealing with our legitimate demands to protect the life of its citizen,” said the statement, dated Feb. 4.
The group made no reference to Cicala’s wife, who was kidnapped with him in December in Mauritania.
AQIM emerged in 2007 from the Salafist GSPC movement which battled Algerian security forces during the 1990s.
Last year it killed a British hostage. Analysts say the group is interested as much in securing multi-million dollar ransom payments as political goals.
AQIM has waged a campaign of suicide bombings and ambushes in Algeria but in recent years has shifted a large part of its activities south to neighbouring Saharan countries.
Pic: Flag of Mali