World Bulletin/News Desk
Sahara-based militants holding three Algerian diplomats hostage have sent a video of one of them to Mauritania's ANI news agency, ANI said, the first proof of life in over a year.
Seven Algerians were kidnapped in the north Mali town of Gao in April 2012. Three were released, one was reported executed and the last video released to media was in January 2013.
Little has been heard of the diplomats since then, despite France's dispatch of some 4,000 troops and the deployment of thousands of United Nations peace keepers to the region.
It was not possible to verify the video but Nouakchott-based ANI is frequently used by militants operating in the Sahara and Sahel band to publish statements.
ANI said it received a video on Saturday in which Mourad Ghassas, one of the Algerian diplomats, said he and his colleagues were in good health. He said he was speaking on April 9, ANI reported.
It said that in the video Ghassas called on the Algerian government to negotiate with the militants to free them.
ANI said it received the video from Al-Mourabitoun, the group created last year when MUJWA, the group that kidnapped the Algerians in Gao, and fighters led by veteran Sahara fighter Mokhtar Belmokhtar, merged.
ANI later removed the story from its website but on Sunday it remained on other Mauritanian websites. No reason was given for the removal of the story but ANI has in the past come under pressure from authorities to limit statements from militants on incidents involving Algerian interests.
In a statement issued with the video, ANI said Al-Mourabitoun accused Algerian authorities of not respecting a number of terms of the agreement that led to the freeing of the other three Algerians.
There was no immediate comment from the Algerian government.
In a separate report on its website, ANI said a spokesman for Al-Mourabitoun had denied reports that Oumar Ould Hamaha, a fighter with a $3 million U.S. government bounty on his head, had been killed by French air strikes in Mali last month.
Hamaha was a leading figure in the fighting of northern Mali in 2012, drifting between groups to become spokesman for MUJWA in Gao. Malian military sources said he was killed alongside others in mid-March.Last Mod: 13 Nisan 2014, 22:35