Talks ‘advancing’ to free hostages: Mali Islamists
An Al-Qaeda offshoot in Mali which is holding seven Algerian hostages said Sunday negotiations to free them were “advancing” and they had received medication for one of them who is diabetic.
On Tuesday, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) told AFP that talks to free the Algerians and three European hostages had resumed. But their latest message made no reference to the two Spanish and Italian hostages.
“We have accepted medication for one of the Algerian hostages. He received medicine for diabetes. Now, the negotiations are advancing,” said Adnan Abu Walid Sahraoui, a MUJAO spokesman.
On May 16 the group threatened to kill one of the Spanish hostages if their demands were not met.
MUJAO first emerged last December, presenting themselves as an offshoot of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, when they claimed the kidnap of three aid workers — two Spanish and an Italian — from Tindouf, Algeria.
The group is demanding the release of two Sahrawis arrested by Mauritania for their role in the kidnapping, as well as 30 million euros ($40 million).
On April 5 the Algerian consul in the northern Malian town of Gao was kidnapped along with six colleagues and MUJAO claimed responsibility, demanding 15 million euros for their release.
At the end of April the group announced talks with Algiers had broken down and on May 8 they announced a 30-day deadline for their demands to be met.
MUJAO, along with AQIM have allied with Islamist group Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith) who occupied a large part of northern Mali along with Tuareg rebels in March after a coup d’etat in Bamako.
The Islamists want to create a strict Islamic state while the Tuareg want independence for a region they see as their homeland.
Aside from the hostages held by MUJAO, AQIM is holding six French citizens kidnapped from Niger and Mali.