MUJAO 'executes' Algerian diplomat
By Mouna Sadek for Magharebia in Algiers – 04/09/12
The Movement for Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) carried out its threat to execute one of the Algerian diplomats held since April in Mali.
The al-Qaeda allied group on Saturday (September 1st) claimed that it had killed defence attaché Taher Touati. The 32-year-old from Djelfa had married just a few months before his abduction from the Algerian consulate in Gao.
Algerian officials reacted with caution to the news. They said that they were still in touch with the kidnappers and were working to verify the information.
"On Saturday morning, the families of the Algerian consular officials who are being held hostage in northern Mali met the general secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who told them in particular that contact with the kidnappers had not been broken off," Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said in a statement released by APS.
"A crisis team is in session and the ministry will not fail to inform the families concerned and the public of all new developments," Medelci added.
MUJAO previously gave Algeria until Friday to meet its ransom demands and hand over three jihadists arrested August 15th in Ghardaia, including AQIM leader Necib Tayeb (alias Abou Ishak Essoufi).
The family of the executed hostage declined to make any comment.
According to Kamel Rachdi, a professor of politics at the University of Algiers, Algeria must now do its utmost to free the other hostages.
"It must use all means of negotiation at its disposal to ensure that they are released alive and will come back safe and sound to their families," he said, adding that the Algerian authorities have stayed true to their principles in negotiating with the kidnappers.
"Now that the kidnappers have shown their intentions in a violent manner, Algeria must redouble its efforts and take the negotiations as far as it can," he said.
Mohamed Drif, an expert on Islamist groups, said in an interview with El Khabar that MUJAO had initially abducted Spanish and Italian nationals and demanded 30 million euros for their release.
"When they kidnapped the Algerian diplomats, they demanded a ransom of 15 million euros to begin with," Drif said. "This group wants to give credence to its threats, that's why it changed its demand and demanded the release of AQIM members who were arrested recently, because they know that the Algerian authorities take a tough stance on ransom payments."
He pointed out that MUJAO has adopted the same approach as al-Qaeda.
"The execution of the hostage would appear to be a move aimed at Algeria, but in reality it is aimed at the West," he said.
In a video which was released on Sunday, a MUJAO terrorist known as Nabil Abou Alkama said that Algeria neglects its citizens, unlike Western states which do not hesitate to pay to save the lives of their nationals.
The announcement was met with sadness and outrage
"It's a disgraceful and monstrous act, I can't believe they do this in the name of religion," Latifa Rezig, 36, told Magharebia.
She wondered whether Algeria would now have to take military action in Mali. "I think they're doing this to goad us into war," Rezig concluded.
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