PARIS — A group affiliated with al-Qaeda 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 Abdelhamid Abu Zeid, a battle-hardened Algerian who leads the most active of three squads of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), 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 Web site, Sahara Media, that is a frequent conduit for AQIM communications.
Abu Zeid’s claim 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 its efforts are to be effective.
The video sought to focus attention on Hollande’s determination to drive AQIM guerrillas and their allies from a vast sanctuary in northern Mali, following the passage last week by the U.N. Security Council of 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.