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Africa

Reports one of the hostage takers in Algeria may be French

media The gas site at In Amenas. AFP / Statoil / Kjetil Alsvik

There are reports a Frenchman may be one of the hostage takers at an Algerian gas field where Islamic militants are holding workers hostage. The French defence minister has suggested the hostage taker could be a known spokesperson for Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

The French private radio station Europe 1 says sources within the Algerian interior ministry confirmed a Frenchman is among the hostage takers.

An Algerian army source told the station a French passport that did not belong to the hostages was found at the In Amenas site.

Another report on Le Point suggests freed Algerian hostages heard a hostage taker speaking Arabic with a strong French accent, and another European hostage taker called “The Norwegian” by his fellow captors.

A Mauritanian journalist, Lamine Ould M’Salem, who has been in contact with the hostage takers, told Europe 1 there were foreigners among the militants.

On Saturday, the French Defence Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, told France 3 Bretagne television the name of this French militant is Le Guen.

“I can’t be sure that this French jihadist, who is called Le Guen, is at the site. I think we will know very soon,” Le Drian said.

It suggests Gilles Le Guen, a Frenchman from Brittany who has been a spokesperson for Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim).

“This is a person we spotted a while ago, but he was in Mali for several weeks. We think he may be there [in Algeria] but we are not sure,” Le Drian added.

Gilles Le Guen was seen as a spokesman in an Aqim video back in October.

In an interview published in the magazine L’Express on Wednesday, Le Guen, who is in his 50’s, said he has been living in Timbuktu since 2011.

Married to a Moroccan, he has five children between two and 10 years old, and converted in Islam in 1985 while in France.

He also told the magazine he has undergone military training in Timbuktu.

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