Al Qaeda’s north African arm wants a repeal of a ban on the Muslim face veil in France, the release of militants and 7 million euros to free hostages who include five French, Al Arabiya TV said on Monday. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is holding seven foreigners in the Sahara desert after kidnapping them last month. (Photo: A woman protests outside the French Embassy in London against France’s veil ban, 25 Sept 2010/Luke MacGregor)
The sources did not specify which militants the hostage-takers wanted released. France’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the report as one of several “rumours” since the kidnappings in mid-September.
The government has not received any demands from AQIM since the seven were taken, but has said it would consider negotiating with the hostage-takers for their release. Initial contacts with AQIM through local chiefs in Mali were “not encouraging” due to the nature of the demands, the sources told the Dubai-based television station.
France became the first country in Europe to outlaw the veil after the Constitutional Council, the country’s highest constitutional authority, approved the ban last week. It will be enforced after a six-month transition period during which fully covered women will be warned about penalties they could face.