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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Al Qaeda-linked Mali extremists release hostage video

The recently formed Nusrat Al Islam wal Muslimeen issued the video and warned, "No genuine negotiations have begun to rescue your children."

Freed hostage Johan Gustafsson (C) and his family at the Arlanda airport, Stockholm, after his arrival in Sweden, on  June 26, 2017, after being held captive since 2011 by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Mali. Marcus Ericsson / EPA
Freed hostage Johan Gustafsson (C) and his family at the Arlanda airport, Stockholm, after his arrival in Sweden, on June 26, 2017, after being held captive since 2011 by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Mali. Marcus Ericsson / EPA

DAKAR // A group- linked to Al Qaeda in Mali has released a proof-of-life video showing six foreign hostages, shortly before the French president's arrival in the country to attend an anti-terrorism summit.

The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist communications, said the video was released on Saturday by the recently formed Nusrat Al Islam wal Muslimeen. The video shows Stephen McGowan of South Africa, Elliot Kenneth Arthur of Australia, Iulian Ghergut of Romania, Beatrice Stockly of Switzerland, Gloria Cecilia Narvaez of Colombia and Sophie Petronin of France.

"No genuine negotiations have begun to rescue your children," a narrator says on the video.

The narrator also mentions the recently elected French President Emmanuel Macron, and appears to taunt Ms Petronin, saying she "is hoping that the new French president will come to her rescue."

Mr Macron on Sunday met in Mali with heads of state from five nations across Africa's Sahel region to build support for a new 5,000-strong multinational force to counter extremists there. Deadly attacks in recent years in countries once considered relatively safe have alarmed the international community.

In March, a video announced the creation of Nusrat Al Islam wal Muslimeen from a merger of three extremist groups: the Al Qaeda-linked Al Mourabitoun, Ansar Dine and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Nusrat Al Islam wal Muslimeen claimed responsibility for last month's attack that killed at least five people just outside the Malian capital in a resort area that is popular with foreigners.

A number of the hostages in Mali have been held for years. Of the six shown in the video, Mr McGowan was abducted the earliest, when he was taken in 2011 from a hostel in Timbuktu. Ms Narvaez, a nun, was seized most recently. She was abducted in February near the border with Burkina Faso.

The video comes after the Swedish government last Monday announced the release of Johan Gustafsson, who was held by Islamic extremists in Mali for six years.