Al-Qaeda’s north African branch has released a video purporting to show seven kidnapped Westerners, Mauritanian news agency ANI reported, footage which the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs has deemed “credible.”
The hostages are four Frenchmen kidnapped from an uranium compound in northern Niger three years ago along with a Dutchman, a Swede and a South African who were abducted from Timbuktu in northern Mali in November 2011.
“Based on an initial analysis, the video seems credible to us and provides new proof of life of the four French hostages kidnapped in Arlit [northern Niger] on Sept. 16, 2010,” ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said on Monday, adding that the eight minutes and 42 seconds of footage were being authenticated.
In the video, released to ANI, Frenchman Daniel Larribe introduces himself as the head of the French group and says he was kidnapped by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
ANI reported on its Web site that he was speaking on June 27 and said he was in good health.
There was nothing to show whether the seven hostages were filmed at the same location.
The video includes statements from Arribe’s compatriots Pierre Legrand, Thierry Dol and Marc Feret, as well as South African Stephen Malcolm, Dutchman Sjaak Rijke and Swede Johan Gustafsson.
AQIM is currently thought to be holding eight Europeans hostage, including five French nationals.
Philippe Verdon, who was kidnapped in Mali in 2011 and found dead earlier this year, was executed with a shot to the head, according to French prosecutors.
Dol, Larribe, Legrand and Feret were mostly working for French public nuclear giant Areva and its subcontractor, Satom.
Daniel’s wife, Francoise Larribe, was also captured, but released in 2011.
A fifth French hostage, Serge Lazarevic, was kidnapped along with Verdon on November 24, 2011, at their hotel in Hombori.
Their families have insisted they were not mercenaries or secret service agents.
In the video the French hostages reportedly urge French President Francois Hollande’s administration as well as family members to work for their release.
“I am in good health,” Larribe was quoted as saying by ANI in a brief statement that also referenced France’s January intervention in Mali, to which it sent troops to repel a sweeping Islamist occupation by extremist groups, including AQIM, which was threatening an assault on the capital, Bamako.
Threats to retaliate against the French-led military intervention that ousted the Islamists have also filtered through ANI and other sites boasting a vast network of informants and correspondents in the Sahel region