Islamists in Sahara issue video of foreign hostages

Reuters

DUBAI/PARIS (Reuters) - Al Qaeda's north African arm, AQIM, has issued a video of seven foreign hostages, including four French citizens, held in the Sahara urging negotiations for their release, France's foreign ministry said on Monday.

The video also showed a Dutchman, a Swede and a South African, kidnapped in Mali or Niger and some held for up to three years, Mauritania's ANI news agency, which received the video, said earlier on its website.

"It (the video) is in the middle of being verified," said French foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot in a statement.

"After initial analysis, this video appears to be credible and constitutes a new proof of life of the four hostages kidnapped in Arlit on 16 September 2010."

The video, the first to show the men since France launched an intervention against al Qaeda-linked militants in its former colony Mali earlier this year, was taken on June 27.

According to ANI, which did not show the video, the seven men appeared in good health with beards and wearing traditional Tuareg clothing.

The men in turn call on their respective governments to negotiate their release and warn that they are threatened with death, according to ANI.

The video marks three years since the four Frenchmen were kidnapped by AQIM working for French nuclear group Areva and Sogea-Sotem, a subsidiary of construction group Vinci in Arlit in Niger.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) said in March that it had killed one French hostage, Philippe Verdon, and that it was still holding eight foreigners, including five French nationals.

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