A video surfaced on Sunday of an Algerian hostage currently held by the Mali-based militant group Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO). The video, given to AFP by an intermediary of the group, shows the Algerian hostage asking for the Algerian Government to secure his release.
“I ask Algerian authorities to find a solution to save my life,” the man, identified as an Algerian consulate employee in Mali’s northern city of Gao by an AFP journalist said. The man draws parallel between Mauritania and France’s efforts in the past to negotiate with kidnappers, saying “Algeria should do the same thing.”
MUJAO took responsibility for the kidnapping of seven Algeria consulate employees, including the consul himself in April. Earlier in May the group demanded the release of Islamist fighters from Al-Qaeda in the Islamist Maghreb (AQIM), held in Algeria, and 15 million euro in exchange for the seven consulate employees. In July, the group released three of the captives and restated their demands.
The Algerian government on Friday stated they would not be negotiating with the Malian militants, sparking a heated response. On the same day, MUJAO responded by threatening the Algerian hostage, saying the Algerian government had five days left to save the captive’s life. “Algeria will be subject to all the consequences of this refusal,” they threatened.
The deadline expires Wednesday, and the Algerian government has refused, so far, to cave to their demands.
Earlier this month, Algerian security forces arrested three militant members of AQIM. Militant groups such as MUJAO, Ansar Dine and AQIM are ideologically aligned and often work together. They rose to prominence after security in northern Mali deteriorated after a military coup in March. Initially, in the security vacuum a Tuareg-led rebellion succeeded in securing most of northern Mali and declared the region independent in April. Over the following months, MUJAO and Ansar Dine managed to stage successful campaigns against the ruling group, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawat (MNLA).
MUJAO declared in late June that the group, alongside Ansar Dine, had managed to secure the provisional capital of northern Mali, Gao. They claimed to be in control of the entire region, an area larger than France yet comprised chiefly of barren land. Following the takeover of northern Mali, West African nations such as Nigeria and Mali itself have raised the possibility of foreign military intervention.
The Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary General of the United Nations, Eduardo del Buey, said military intervention in Mali can only come after negotiations have been exhausted. “We are calling for negotiations between both sides to put an end to the crisis,” del Buey said on Monday.
According to del Buey, the NMLA is still operating in northern Mali and it is not clear who is in control of the area. Whether or not Northern Malians want to remain a part of Mali or become their own independent state “is a question for Malians to decide on,” del Buey concluded.