Mali arrests kidnap suspects, Al Qaeda releases pictures of victims
While Al Qaeda is showing signs of waning in southern and western Asia, Al Qaeda-related groups continue to make their presence felt across the African Sahel region.
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In Nigeria’s northern regions, for instance, a radical Islamist movement called Boko Haram has launched a terrorist assault on the Nigerian government, adopting the suicide bomb methods pioneered by Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Further north in Niger, Mali, and Mauritania, Al Qaeda-related groups have taken to kidnapping Westerners for ransom money, and the governments of those countries are struggling to counter the challenge.Skip to next paragraph
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To deal with the threat in its north, Mali has begun to work more closely with both France and the US military in training Malian troops in counter-terrorism measures. But as a result, Mali has lost millions of dollars in tourism, as historic cities such as Gao and Timbuktu have effectively been cut off to outsiders.
It is by no means certain what the motives of the kidnappers in Mali may have been, and to date, there has been no public information about whether kidnappers have asked for ransom or issued demands. But on the day that Mali showed off its arrested kidnap suspects, a spokesman for a until-now unknown group called the Unity Movement for Jihad in West Africa, or Jamat Tawhid Wal Jihad Fi Garbi Afriqqiya. The news agency Agence-France Presse reports that this group claims to have broken away from AQIM.
"Repeated attacks on Mujahideen [Islamist fighters] to please America and France is a mistaken and unjust policy that contradicts Islamic sharia law as well as reason and will not pass without retribution," the group said in a statement, quoted by Reuters.
In its travel warning for Mali, the British Foreign Office has posted a list of kidnap incidents throughout the Sahel region. The list includes eight Westerners and one South African kidnapped or killed in the past two months alone.
South Africa, which is following the kidnap of a South African national last month, says it has “no update” about the status of its citizen, whose name it has not released, but South African officials privately have told reporters they are encouraged that a video released by the kidnappers show the South African alive and apparently healthy.