LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Islamic extremists published the first video of a French engineer kidnapped in Nigeria in December, showing a white-bearded man backed by an armed militant appealing for negotiations for his "safe release," according to the SITE Intelligence Group.
It is the first sign that 63-year-old Francis Collomp is alive since he was kidnapped Dec. 19 by militants who have killed several Western hostages. They used dynamite to storm the well-guarded compound where he was working on an energy project for the French company Vergnet in Nigeria's northern Katsina state.
The Washington-based SITE, which monitors jihadist websites, said the Nigerian group Ansaru published the video Friday on its website.
The photograph from the video which SITE published Saturday shows Collomp, sporting a full white beard, seated with his back to a black-uniformed man gripping an assault rifle with the butt resting on the floor.
In the video, which has unclear audio, Collomp calls for "negotiations" for his "safe release."
An Arabic statement on the three-minute video translated by SITE makes no demands for his release, but threatens "reciprocity" for any "treachery and treason" by the French and Nigerian governments.
At the time of his kidnapping, Ansaru said it was acting in retaliation for France's military intervention that helped wrest northern Mali from Islamic extremists and "transgressions" by European nations fighting Islamic extremists in Afghanistan. The video comes as Africa is reeling from the attack on a Kenyan mall that killed more than 60 people by al-Shabab militants demanding Kenya withdraw its troops from Somalia.
Ansaru is a breakaway faction of Boko Haram, the group staging an Islamic uprising in northeast Nigeria that has killed hundreds of civilians.
Britain formally designated Ansaru a terrorist organization after the killing of a kidnapped Briton and an Italian in a failed rescue attempt last year.
In March, Ansaru announced it had killed seven "Christian" foreigners kidnapped a month earlier from the compound of a Lebanese construction company. It said they were killed because Britain and Nigeria were planning a rescue, which Britain denied.
Ansaru has never released a hostage.