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Africa

Al Qaeda Africa hostages alive, Hollande says

media A demonstration to support the hostages in Nantes earlier this month AFP

French President François Hollande on Sunday said he believed an Al Qaeda claim that eight European hostages held in north Africa are still alive. Five of the hostages are French.

On a visit to Qatar this weekend Hollande said he had "every reason to believe that the hostages are alive", and that Paris was "still seeking contacts" to free them.

But, he added, the government is seeking reliable contacts and is trying to avoid “intermediaries who put themselves forward and who we know have only come
seeking benefits for themselves".

Thierry Dol, Daniel Larribe, Pierre Legrand and Marc Feret, most of whom worked for French public nuclear giant Areva and its subcontractor Satom, were kidnapped from the company's Arlit plant in Niger by Aqim in September 2010.

A fifth Frenchman, Serge Lazarevic, was kidnapped in north-east Mali in November 2011.

On Saturday jihadist websites carried a statement by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim) declaring, "We would like to reassure the families and parents of the hostages of their children’s safety ... We will soon, God willing, air a new video showing the five French hostages."

Dossier: War in Mali

The statement coincided with rallies across France, organised by the families of the French hostages seized in Niger in September 2010 to mark more than 1,000 days of captivity.

The families called for a nationwide mobilisation to secure their release but opinions differ about how best to go about it

On Friday, some members of Pierre Legrand's family filed a lawsuit against Satom for failing to ensure its employees’ safety. 

But Azza Megarabne who heads the Paris branch of the hostage support committee, told RFI that this kind of lawsuit is not the answer.

Aqim said it was open to negotiations but repeated previous statements that it would kill the hostages if there were any new French military intervention in north Africa.

The French government maintains it does not negotiate with hostage-takers.

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