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Al-Qaida Affiliated Groups Claim Responsibility for Kidnappings in West Africa

Printer Friendly VersionPrinter Friendly VersionSend to a FriendSend to a FriendA terrorist group affiliated with al-Qaida is claiming responsibility for last month's kidnapping of three Spanish aid workers in Mauritania and a Frenchman in Mali.   The Algerian-based group al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb made the kidnapping claim in an audio tape given to the Al Jazeera television network. A man identifying himself as Saleh Abu Mohammad says that France and Spain will be informed later about the kidnappers' demands. Spain says it can not confirm the validity of the claim, but is investigating the report. Three Spanish aid workers were kidnapped November 29 south of the Mauritanian city, Nouadhibou, on the road to the capital, Nouakchott.  Gunmen abducted a Frenchman in eastern Mali, November 26. Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb is a Sunni organization which was formerly known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat.  It began as an insurrection against Algeria's secular military rulers after they canceled parliament elections in 1992, when it appeared a coalition of Islamist groups might take power. It has since expanded and aligned itself with the broader al-Qaida terrorist network, claiming responsibility for suicide bombings in Algeria last year and the kidnapping of two Austrian tourists in Tunisia who were later freed in Mali. The group also claimed responsibility for last December's kidnapping of Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler and his aide in Niger, as well as the abduction of four European tourists returning from a nomadic cultural festival in January.  One of those tourists was killed. Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb says it killed an American teacher in Nouakchott in June, because he was allegedly trying to convert Muslims to Christianity. It is considered a terrorist group by the U.S. State Department and the European Union.