NOUAKCHOTT — A Mauritanian online news agency has published a video showing five of six French hostages kidnapped by the North African Al-Qaeda branch from Mali and Niger in the past two years.
The video, seen by AFP Friday, is a montage of images filmed in different locations, and shows the five hostages separately introducing themselves and leaving a message for their families while surrounded by armed and turbaned men.
One hostage, Philippe Verdon, spoke of "difficult living conditions" and health problems, saying he had not taken his medication for three months. It was not clear what the medication was for.
Verdon was kidnapped in November with Serge Lazarevic from Hombori in northeastern Mali, where they worked as geologists.
He appeals to former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who was beaten in a second round election on May 6 by Francois Hollande, and international organisations to intervene and free himself and his colleague.
Verdon said Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) was "available to negotiate".
The news agency Sahara Media reported that the video was taken in the last months of Sarkozy's time in office.
An intermediary between France and AQIM told Sahara Media that negotiations were not advancing, and said the video was "obvious proof" that the hostages were still alive.
Sahara Media is one of Mauritania's most reliable news organisations and often reports on the activities of armed groups such as AQIM which have occupied the vast desert north of Mali for over four months.
AQIM is holding another four French hostages kidnapped from a uranium mine in Arlit in northern Niger in September 2010. Their abductors have demanded that France withdraw its forces from Afghanistan in exchange for their release.
AQIM is also holding a Swede, Dutch and South African with British citizenship who were kidnapped in November 2011 in an attack on Timbuktu in which a German was killed.
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