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French hostage release by Ansaru group explained

media Francis Collomp Screengrab/

Alain Rodier is a former intelligence officer and the director of research at the French Centre for Research on Intelligence (Cf2R). In an interview with Anne Verdaguer of RFI he explains who is Ansaru, the group that was responsible for the kidnapping of Francis Collomp. Collomp was released in Nigeria on 17 November after almost a year in captivity.

Collomp Francis was kidnapped almost a year ago by about thirty armed men. The kidnapping was later claimed by Ansaru, a group linked to Boko Haram. What is the relationship between these two Islamist groups?

"To put things simply, Boko Haram is a nationalist movement that aims to achieve an Islamic state in northern Nigeria, while Ansaru is more international. Some of its members have been trained in Mali by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Mujao."

What was the nature of the video of Francis Collomp that was released shortly after his capture?

"It was a video that showed Collomp asking the French government to negotiate. We know that hostages are told by their kidnappers what to say in these situations. So there must have been a willingness from Ansaru to negotiate his release."

Ansaru said that the French military intervention in Mali was a reason for the kidnapping.

"Yes. They condemned the action. This is quite logical since they have personal relationships with the leaders of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Mujao. That said, I want to make it clear that the members of Ansaru did not participate directly in combat. In reality, they were formed when the area of northern Mali was held by the Islamists. They then returned to Nigeria with new techniques, especially in the area of hostage-taking."

What is their relationship with the group AQIM in Mali? Do they have the same goals?

"There are some small differences on religious grounds. Ansaru is a Muslim organization, but they also include a bit of local religion. They therefore do not adhere to exactly the same theories of the al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb. That said, they both have an international goal, and that is the establishment of the global caliphate."

There was also the release of hostages in Niger in October. Can we say that this shows a trend with regards to the release of hostages?

"No, I do not think there is a correlation. It's a fortunate coincidence that our hostages in different places have been released. But we are dealing with different groups, and even if they share the same ideology they do not cooperate directly with each other on operational matters. There is no central command that manages hostage affairs."

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