France analyzes new video of al-Qaida hostages

AP News
Posted: Apr 27, 2011 9:41 AM
France analyzes new video of al-Qaida hostages

French authorities are working to verify the authenticity and date of a new online video that shows four French hostages held by al-Qaida's north Africa branch, the government said Wednesday.

SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S.-based organization that monitors extremist websites, says the 3 1/2-minute video was posted on jihadist forums on Tuesday. French government spokesman Francois Baroin said the video is being analyzed.

There has been very little sign of life from the hostages since the four men were kidnapped in September in Niger. Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

The French Foreign Ministry said the families of the hostages have been alerted about the video, which includes still photos of the hostages and audio recordings of them making nearly identical statements.

They spoke matter-of-factly, in French, and said they were speaking in mid-April. The photos, which were not dated, showed their faces expressionless. They appeared in adequate health.

In the video, the hostages call on French President Nicolas Sarkozy to pull French troops out of Afghanistan.

Baroin said the video included "nothing new" because al-Qaida has already sought a French withdrawal from Afghanistan. "We will not have our foreign policy dictated in any way," he said.

France currently has about 4,000 troops committed to the allied operations in Afghanistan.

The four hostages were among seven people kidnapped from the Niger mining town of Arlit in September, most working with French nuclear company Areva. Three _ a Frenchwoman, and nationals from Togo and Madagascar _ were released in February.