News24

Algerian diplomats' lives 'at risk'

2012-04-30 10:11

Bamako - The al-Qaeda offshoot that has abducted seven Algerian diplomats in northern Mali warned on Sunday that the hostages' lives are in danger.

The Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao), which kidnapped the men on 05 April at their consulate in the northern city of Gao, issued the warning in comments to AFP, following negotiations with Algeria.

"The Algerian delegation... completely refused our demands, and this decision will put the lives of the hostages in danger," Mujao spokesperson Adnan Abu Walid Sahraoui said in a short message sent to AFP.

The spokesperson did not elaborate on the demands of the kidnappers.

Various Islamist groups and Tuareg rebels have seized control of much of northern Mali in recent weeks in a campaign that rapidly gained pace after an army coup on 22 March in the capital Bamako in Mali's south.

Mujao's latest comments were a setback after last Monday, a spokesperson told AFP that, together with Islamist group Ansar Dine, "we have agreed to the release of seven people arrested on Algerian soil in Gao".

The same day, Algeria's foreign minister had said the seven diplomats were in good health, that Algerian authorities were in contact with the kidnappers, and that "we expect this will soon bear fruit".

Mujao is said to have broken off from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim) in order to spread jihad to west Africa rather than confine themselves just to the Maghreb or Sahel regions.

The group in December also claimed the kidnap in October in western Algeria of two Spaniards and one Italian aid workers.