Mali/Spanish hostages : Madrid paid 5 million dollars to Al Qaeda
MADRID - Spain is currently paying 5 million dollars to Al Qaeda for the release of three hostages held for nearly three months by the Maghreb branch of Al-Qaeda, said Sunday the newspaper El Mundo
- Questioned by AFP, a spokesman for the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Sunday morning he had "no new official information" about the three members of a Spanish humanitarian organization, kidnapped November 29 in Mauritania.
Spain "gives 5 million dollars to the terrorist of Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb through a Tuareg chief," wrote El Mundo without specifying its sources.
The Spanish newspaper said that an agreement was reached in late January between Madrid and Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) with the help of the Malian authorities to pay a ransom of 5 million dollars.
This amount has been "confirmed to this newspaper by a member of the government," says El Mundo.
A Tuareg chief, Yyad Ag Ghali, mediates and "had the responsibility of giving to terrorists (...) five million dollars in cash," the paper said.
The same newspaper published an interview with Malian President Amadou Toumani Touré who said to be "confident that in the coming days there would be very good news" for six European hostages held by AQIM.
The AQIM currently holds six Europeans in the desert of northern Mali: the French abducted on November 26 in the country, three Spaniards captured November 29 in Mauritania and a couple of Italians kidnapped December 17 also in Mauritania.
The AQIM had demanded the release of four Islamists held in Mali. These were sentenced Thursday to prison terms they have already served preemptively and therefore "legally free" and about to be released, said Friday a judicial source in Mali.
- Ennaharonline/ M. O.