Qaeda claims Mali kidnappings
Washington - A statement from a group identifying itself as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of five Europeans in Mali in two separate incidents, the SITE monitoring group said on Sunday.
The message posted along with pictures of the victims on Jihadi forums identified two French nationals and "identified three others as Europeans but didn't indicate their nationality", said Site in a statement.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (Aqim) said the kidnappings were a revenge act for the "repeated aggression" of France in the region and the "continuous foolish policies" of French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
They, meanwhile, denied involvement in the abduction of three Europeans in Algeria that was claimed on Saturday by an Aqim splinter group.
Pictures of five abductees
Aqim, addressing Sarkozy directly, said in the statement released by Site: "So, if you want, you have the ability to preserve their lives and release them as soon as you respond to the legitimate demands of the mujahideen; and if you want, you have the ability to kill them, whether by refusing or by being hasty and committing another uncalculated foolishness [sic]."
The Mauritanian news agency ANI had previously carried pictures of the abducted five Westerners claimed by Aqim.
One photo showed French nationals Serge Lazarevic and Philippe Verdon with three armed men behind them, their faces obscured by turbans.
The other showed a Dutch national, a Swede and a man with dual British-South African nationality surrounded by four armed men, their faces similarly masked.
The kidnapping of tourists in the region, which began in 2003 when 32 German and Swiss travellers were seized in southern Algeria, has become big business for local people looking to sell a foreigner to Aqim for a quick windfall.
Aqim grew out of a movement launched in the late 1990s by radical Algerian Islamists who sought the overthrow of the Algerian government to be replaced with Islamic rule. The organisation linked to al-Qaeda in 2006.
These militant Islamists have spun a tight network across tribes, clans, family and business lines that stretch across the Sahel.