French-paid ransom money financed al-Qaida affiliate in North Africa
PARIS — A former U.S. ambassador to Mali has alleged that France paid a $17 million ransom to free hostages seized from a French mining site — cash she said ultimately funded the al-Qaida-linked Islamists whom its troops are fighting. French officials, whose soldiers are pushing north into the territory where the missing captives are believed to be held, denied paying any ransom.
Vicki Huddleston's allegations, which she said dated back two years, strengthened the view that the Mali rebellion was funded largely by ransoms paid in recent years. In February 2011, three of the hostages seized at a French uranium mine in Niger — including one Frenchwoman — were freed; four remain in the hands al-Qaida-linked militants in Mali.
The Islamist rebels retreating northward are apparently taking their Western hostages with them — among them the mine workers and three other French citizens seized elsewhere.
Huddleston, who served as ambassador to Mali and held positions in the State Department and Defense Department in the Washington before retiring, told France's iTele network that the French money allowed al-Qaida's North Africa branch to flourish in Mali.
“Although governments deny that they're paying ransoms, everyone is pretty much aware that money has passed hands indirectly through different accounts and it ends up in the treasury, let us say, of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and allows them to buy weapons and recruit,” she said in the comments that aired on Friday.
Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert in Sweden, said the French policy of paying for hostages is conducted “through several middlemen. It's almost a normal business transaction.” The primary drawback as far as France is concerned, he said, “is a security cost because wherever French people go they become prey.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Iraqi fighter jet drops bomb over Baghdad, kills 12 people
- Sanctions, embargo among sticking points in nuclear deal with Iran
- Bombs at mosque, restaurant in central Nigerian city kill 44
- Wildfires break out in Spain, Portugal
- Greece’s EU role hangs in limbo as voters reject bailout in referendum
- U.S.-led coalition unleashes wave of airstrikes on Raqqa, Syria
- Iran nuclear deal teeters on ‘hard choices,’ Kerry says
- Fans cheer as Princess Charlotte christened on British royal estate in Sandringham
- Egypt claims to kill 63 terrorists in North Sinai
- Famine nears in Yemen; deadly blasts continue
- Russians decry U.S. description in new policy