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Militants say hostages imperiled in Mali

PARIS — An Al Qaeda-affiliated group is accusing France of endangering the lives of a half-dozen French hostages by helping to organize a military intervention in Mali instead of negotiating for the hostages' release.

The accusation, in an online video, came from Abdel Hamid Abu Zeid, an Algerian who leads the most active of three squads of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the terrorist group's affiliate in the Sahel region of northern Africa.

Experts said the video was recorded Tuesday and put online by a Mauritanian Internet site.

Abu Zeid's charge appeared designed to stir French public opinion against President Francois Hollande's government, which insists it is doing all it can to free the hostages but says it must act in secret, through clandestine intermediaries, if it is to be effective.


The video sought to focus attention on Hollande's determination to drive Al Qaeda guerrillas and their allies from a vast sanctuary in northern Mali.

Last week, the UN Security Council passed a French-sponsored resolution authorizing military intervention in northern Mali by a 3,300-strong force of soldiers from the Economic Community of West African States.

The soldiers are to be trained and commanded by French officers. A French general with experience in Africa and Bosnia, Francois Lecointre, has been named to command the mission.

Abu Zeid's group kidnapped four French technicians at a uranium mining center in northern Niger in September 2010. A year later, it abducted a pair of French geologists in Mali. ''The hostages are alive, for the time being,'' Abu Zeid said in the video.

Washington Post