Burkina says in talks to free Qaeda hostages


Burkina Faso’s government is involved in negotiations for the release of foreign hostages held by Al Qaeda’s North African wing, said Foreign Affairs minister Djibril Bassole.

“There is contact, but I cannot say more. This type of negotiation process is very sensitive,” he told reporters when asked if Burkina Faso was seeking the release of hostages held by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. He gave no further details.

Five people, including two French nationals, a Dutchman, a Swede and a South African, were abducted in November in two separate incidents in northern Mali, an area where local agents for al Qaeda operate, Reuters reports.

The porous borders and rugged terrain of the Sahara-Sahel region has made it a safe haven for Islamists, rebels and smugglers and a no-go zone for many tourists.

Regional governments are trying to step up cooperation to improve security in the vast desert, where analysts say the threat of instability has risen since an influx of ex-fighters and weapons from the Libyan war.

Burkina Faso, which lies just south of the most lawless desert zones of Mali and Niger, says it has helped to negotiate the release of hostages before, including Spaniards and Italians last year.