France denies paying Al-Qaeda

PARIS: France denied today that it had paid a ransom to ensure the release of one of its citizens held by Al-Qaeda, while three Spanish and two Italian hostages remain held by the militants.

Pierre Camatte was released on Tuesday in Mali after the north African country, a former French colony, agreed to release four Islamic militants.

The release of the prisoners — two Algerians, a Mauritanian and a Burkinabe — outraged Algiers and Mauritania, which had planned to try them on terror charges and recalled their ambassadors from Mali in protest.

“The position of the French authorities has

not changed — we do not pay ransoms,” French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told


France has a reputation in international security circles of routinely paying to ensure the freedom of nationals kidnapped by criminal and militant groups, but the government always denies having done so.

Valero did not directly address the complaints from Algeria and Mauritania, but said France remains “totally mobilised alongside the countries of the region which are all confronted by the terrorist threat.” Camatte, a 61-year-old aid worker, was kidnapped on November 26 from a hotel by Malians who passed him on to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the North African franchise of Osama Bin Laden’s militant movement.

As well as Camatte, thought to have been hidden in the northern Malian desert, AQIM has three Spanish hostages and an Italian couple, kidnapped in neighbouring Mauritania within days of each other last November.