Bamako: Islamist extremists occupying northern Mali Sunday claimed that they executed an Algerian diplomat kidnapped five months ago, after the government failed to fulfill the demands within prescribed time.
MUJAO had on August 24 given an ultimatum to Algeria, threatening to kill the hostage after Algiers rejected its demands for the release of three jihadists arrested in the south of the country.
In a statement posted on Jihadi websites, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) said Algerian vice-consul Tahar Touati was executed on Saturday morning, and threatened the three other hostages still in their hands if Algiers does not comply with their demands.
“We have carried out our threat. The hostage has been killed,” Walid Abu Sarhaoui, president of the MUJAO council, said.
“Algeria had the time to move negotiations along but did not want to. We executed the hostage on Saturday.”
He said an Algerian soldier had delivered the government’s “definitive” response on Saturday, indicating that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika had rejected an agreement with MUJAO.
“The life of the other hostages will soon be in danger if Algeria doesn’t listen to us,” said Mr Sahraoui.
On the other hand, Algerian authorities have said they are verifying the reports of the diplomat’s execution.
Sunday’s statement “is currently the focus of the necessary verification to ensure its authenticity,” the Algerian foreign ministry said in a statement released by the official APS news agency.
“Contact has not been broken” with the kidnappers, it added.
MUJAO, an splinter group of AQIM, along with Tuareg rebels and Islamist fighters from Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith) seized two-thirds of Mali’s territory in the wake of a military coup in Bamako on March 22.
They have since sidelined their Tuareg allies and enforced strict Islamic law, whipping and stoning transgressors and in the case of Ansar Dine, destroying ancient world heritage sites in the fabled city of Timbuktu.
MUJAO claimed the April 5 kidnapping of seven Algerian diplomats from a consulate in the town of Gao, one of the main northern cities which has fallen into the extremists’ hands.