It is reported al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has threatened to kill French hostages in Northern Mali, if France joins a future military intervention.
A message posted on a Mauritanian news site purportedly from al Qaeda said:
“This crazy action would not only result in the execution of hostages, but also drown the whole of France in the marshes of Azawad.”
The group is currently holding four French hostages who were taken from the town of Arlit in Niger’s northern uranium mining zone in September 2010, and two other French citizens who were taken from the Sahel region.
Mathieu Guidère a French specialist on radical Islamic groups said:
“This message has two objectives. Firstly to put pressure on the French government – through this message to the families – to make the government open immediate negotiations with the organization. The second is to dissuade France against any inclinations of intervention or support for an intervention, to the countries of the region to the north of Mali, because this will lead to a war which the AQIM is ready to fight.”
A region the size of France was taken over after a military coup on March 21, left a power vacuum that allowed Tuareg rebels to seize control, but the rebellion was then hijacked by Islamists who began imposing Sharia law in the area.
This statement comes as ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) is preparing to help Mali’s government forces retake the north of the country. The regional body has told the UN Security Council it needs major combat assets such as fighter jets and is set to seek a mandate for a military intervention in northern Mali.
France, Mali’s former colonial power, has offered to provide logistical support and share intelligence as part of a future intervention, but has ruled out sending in its own troops.