Qaeda re­leases a proof-of-life video of six foreign hostages

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Al-Qaeda’s Mali branch has re­leased a proof-of-life video of six foreign hostages, in­clud­ing el­derly Aus­tralian sur­geon Arthur Ken­neth El­liott and French­woman Sophie Petronin, US-based mon­i­tor­ing group SITE said. The 16 minute, 50 sec­ond video by Nus­rat Al-Is­lam wal Mus­limeen, also known as the Group to Sup­port Is­lam and Mus­lims, was re­leased on Tele­gram on Satur­day, SITE said. The other four hostages shown are South African Stephen McGown, Ro­ma­nian Iu­lian Ghergut, Swiss mis­sion­ary Beatrice Stockly and Colom­bian nun Glo­ria Ce­cilia Nar­vaez Ar­goti.

No group had pre­vi­ously claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for kid­nap­ping French­woman Petronin, who was ab­ducted in late 2016 by armed men in the north­ern Malian town of Gao, where she ran an or­gan­i­sa­tion for mal­nour­ished chil­dren. Af­ter a video clip show­ing Petronin, the nar­ra­tor said she was hop­ing the French pres­i­dent would help re­turn her to her fam­ily, ac­cord­ing to SITE. The video was re­leased just be­fore Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron ar­rived in Mali on Sun­day to con­sol­i­date Western back­ing for a re­gional anti-ji­hadist force.

In the video, the hostages are sep­a­rately in­tro­duced by a nar­ra­tor, who says that so far there have been no ne­go­ti­a­tions for their re­lease. The first shown is McGown, who was ab­ducted in Tim­buktu, north­ern Mali, in Novem­ber 2011. “It’s a long time to be away ... Un­til when do you think this will come to an end? Now we’re mak­ing a new video, but I don’t know what to say. It’s all been said in the past. It’s all been said in pre­vi­ous videos I’ve made,” McGown says, ac­cord­ing to a tran­scrip­tion by SITE.

He is fol­lowed by Aus­tralian El­liott, in his 80s, who, along with his wife Jo­ce­lyn, was ab­ducted in Jan­uary 2015 in Djibo, Burk­ina Faso, where the cou­ple had run the sole med­i­cal clinic since 1972. Jo­ce­lyn was re­leased in Fe­bru­ary 2016. Next in the video is Ro­ma­nian mineworker Ghergut, who says he was cap­tured in Burk­ina Faso on April 4, 2015. The women are then shown, in­clud­ing Swiss mis­sion­ary Stockly, who was kid­napped in Mali in Jan­uary 2016. Colom­bian nun Ar­goti was seized by armed men in the Mali vil­lage of Karangasso close to the Burk­ina Faso bor­der in Fe­bru­ary 2017.

At the end of the un­dated video, while not spell­ing out any de­mands the nar­ra­tor tells the hostages’ fam­i­lies “no gen­uine ne­go­ti­a­tions have be­gun” for their re­lease but then adds that ne­go­ti­a­tions are “still ac­tive”. In 2012, Mali’s north fell un­der the con­trol of ji­hadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda who ex­ploited an eth­nic Tuareg-led rebel up­ris­ing, though the Is­lamists were largely ousted by a French-led mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion in Jan­uary 2013. Since then, ji­hadists have con­tin­ued to mount numer­ous at­tacks on civil­ians and the army, as well as on French and UN forces sta­tioned there. —AFP

This im­age grab re­leased by Al-Jazeera tele­vi­sion shows part of a video broad­cast by the pan-Arab chan­nel, in which three Western hostages taken cap­tive in north­ern Mali by the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Din move­ment, ap­pear in an undis­closed lo­ca­tion in Mali. — AFP

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