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Wednesday 24 September  

Frenchman kidnapped in Mali is alive: minister

Published on 22 November 2012 - 3:58pm
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A French citizen kidnapped in Mali is alive and authorities are verifying claims by Islamist fighters they are holding the man, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Thursday.

"We have information from the Malian authorities. From what we know, yes" the hostage is alive, Fabius told BFMTV.

"There has been a claim of responsibility but we have not yet been able to verify it," he said, adding that it was unclear whether the same group that seized the man was still holding him or if he had been handed over to others.

The Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) told AFP on Wednesday it was holding the Frenchman, named as Gilberto Rodriguez Leal, a 61-year-old Portuguese-born French citizen.

Six other French citizens have been kidnapped in the country and are thought to be in the custody of Islamists.

Islamist groups with links to Al-Qaeda conquered the entire north of Mali, an area the size of France or Texas, earlier this year when a coup in Bamako left a power vacuum in the vast desert north.

France has played the leading role in pushing west African countries into the creation of a military force capable of intervening in Mali and reclaiming control of the north.

But Fabius said a planned intervention would not be taking place in the coming weeks.

"We are not there yet," he said. "Malian forces must first be reconstituted and neighbouring countries must provide elements. This is a matter that is first of all up to the Africans."

  • Fighters of the Islamic group of Mujao stand guard near Gao airport, August ...
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