by Florian Flade
The Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has threatened European countries if they are launching a military operation in order to free kidnapped European tourists held by the terrorist group.
A written statement released by AQIM today on the Internet forums says there is information about a planned military operation by a joined force of European countries headed by France to rescue five Europeans abducted by Al-Qaida last year.
„That signals their definite preparation to launch a military operation to target the Mujahidin in an attempt to rescue the Western hostages held captive by the organization (…) And it clearly appears that France and her agents did not learn from the past lessons. They have no intention to avoid repeating the previous stupidity that caused the death of the French hostages in Niger and Mali.“
The Islamists are warning European governments of any attempt to engage with the Al-Qaida hostage takers.
„We send a clear warning to the government of the following countries; France, Britain, Holland and Sweden, that a military attack on the Mujahidin in north Mali will be taken as their approval for executing their citizens“
Al-Qaida further states it will not take any responsibility for the death of hostages if they are killed during a military confrontation.
„The Mujahidin do not wish for such a tragic ending. They are careful to find a peaceful and just resolution for the affair of the hostages. And based on it, we direct an urgent call to the families of the hostages. We say to them: you must pressure your governments to avoid a military operation that will surely cause the death of your relatives“
At this point AQIM is holding at least nine European citizens, including five tourists kidnapped last year. Two French geologists were kidnapped by AQIM on November 24 2011 from their hotel in eastern Mali. AQIM claims the two men are spies of the French intelligence agency.
The following day AQIM gunmen kidnapped three European tourists – a Swede, a Dutchman and a South African with British citizenship – in the historical city of Timbuktu. The group of tourists was having launch at a restaurant in the city when the Islamists attacked. A 58 year-old German national who resisted the kidnappers was shot dead in the incident.
Images of the hostages have been released by AQIM in December 2011.