Mali kidnappers say willing to free Algerian diplomats
BAMAKO (AFP) - The Al Qaeda offshoot that claimed the abduction in the Malian city of Gao of the Algerian consul and six of his aides is willing to release them, one of the group's members said Monday.
"We have agreed to the release of seven people arrested on Algerian soil in Gao," a member of the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) told AFP by phone, in reference to the group abducted fom the consulate on April 5.
"We made an agreement with our brothers from Ansar Dine," an Islamist group that has seized control of much of northern Mali together with Tuareg rebels in recent weeks, the spokesman said.
He did not give further details.
A Mali security official in Bamako had earlier told AFP that Ansar Dine was negotiating their release with MUJAO.
Ansar Dine "is currently involved in negotiations to free the seven employees from the Algerian consulate in Gao," the security official said.
The seven kidnapped diplomats, taken at gunpoint from the consulate in Gao Gao, in northeastern Mali, are in good health, Algeria's foreign minister said for his part Monday.
"The information we've received shows the Algerian hostages are doing well," Mourad Medelci told state-run news agency APS, adding that Algerian authorities were in contact with kidnappers.
"We expect this will soon bear fruit," he said.