Militants accuse France of foot-dragging

Dec. 27, 2012 at 10:15 AM   |   0 comments

PARIS, Dec. 27 (UPI) -- Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb has accused French officials of not negotiating for the release of four French hostages held by militants since 2010.

AQIM accused France of dragging its feet in negotiating the release of Pierre Legrand, Daniel Larribe, Thierry Dole and Marc Ferret during a 4-minute video broadcast on the Mauritanian website Sahara Medias, Radio France Internationale reported Wednesday.

"A year ago, we notified France we were open to negotiate [and] we are still waiting for a response," says Abdel Hamid Abu Zeid, a leader of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, a transcript of the video indicated.

The hostages, who were working for the French firms of Areva and Sogea Satom in Arlit in northern Niger when they were abducted, are alive, Zeid said in the video.

The French Foreign Ministry said in a statement that French authorities "continue to demand our compatriots held in the Sahel be freed safe and sound. ... No stone has been left unturned."

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, has said the government was working "in discretion" to secure the hostages' release.

AQIM also is holding French geologists Philippe Verdon and Serge Lazarevic, kidnapped in 2011. RFI said Gilberto Rodriguez Leal was kidnapped in November by Mujao, a militant group with links to AQIM and Francis Collmup was taken last week by Ansaru, a group with ties to AQIM and the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram.

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