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This kidnapping is atypical in several ways
-it took place in Mali (first since the kidnappings near Menaka)
-south of the river Niger - a first I think - so how will they get them to the north? Take the ferry? Use small pirogues perhaps.
I'm guessing that this was done by a criminal gang looking to make some money. Hombori is a touristy place.
I hear the wounded Frenchman was a colonel, friend of Tchad's Idriss Deby, recruited by Areva to negotiate with Aqim.
"They were armed to the teeth." Mamadou, the driver of the two French hostages in Mali and witness of the scene is still in shock. Asked by Europe 1, he said the violence with which the armed group attacked the two geologists.
"Where are the white"?
The incident took place at night, around 1 hour on Wednesday at Le Dombia to Hombori, a town situated between Mopti and Gao. Seven individuals, dressed in tunics and armed with Kalashnikov rifles and knives entering the hotel after gagged the driver of the French.
"They quickly tied the guards, after they came to me, pointing their guns, their Kalashnikovs. They tied, then they broke down the door to enter the hotel," said Mamadou Europe1 of the microphone.
Once in the hotel, the kidnappers then sequester the property owner and ask him to tell them the room where "the two white." "They said 'we did not come to you, we came to the whites. 'They said,' do not shout, do nothing ', "said the micro RFI leader of the hotel.
Traces of blood found
There, the deuxFfrançais woke up in their sleep. One of them was the victim of violence. "I heard screams," the manager of the hotel. "There was a healthy one they savagely beaten," says the driver of the two French. According to initial findings, traces of blood were found on the carpet and pillows in the hotel room of the victims.
Another witness saw the French bundled into a vehicle. An hour later, the kidnappers and their hostages had disappeared in the desert. The two French have indeed been taken to the far north of Mali.
"Philippe Verdon and Serge Lazarevic: according to a municipal source in Mali, are the names of two French nationals kidnapped by unidentified gunmen in the town of Hombori, between Mopti and Gao in northern Mali. An abduction that bears the brand of al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
"This is about 1 hour 30 Thursday morning I received the phone call announcing the kidnapping of two French geologists from the work carried out on the cement plant Hombori "says Hamidou Djiré, the sub- prefect of the city. The two men had come on a mission on November 22, the account of the World Bank. "This is Philippe Verdon and Serge Lazarevic, two men of about fifty-sixty years," says Amadou Maiga Beidy, the mayor of Hombori.
He said that "the two men were abducted from the hotel Doumbia by ten armed men. They spoke in French to the staff of the hotel, saying they had not come for them but for whites. They tied up the employees before bringing the two French in the back of their car. Between them they speak Tamashek. " The procedure resembles that used by Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in many similar operations.
"An accomplice of the kidnappers took tea with the French"
"Nobody has seen the direction taken by the kidnappers, but we explore two tracks. One in the north that leads to the Niger River, which can cross from the village of Didi to win the far north of Mali , and the second leads to the east, where the kidnappers may be hiding in the hills and dense forest " .
"A turbaned man of light complexion spent the night with the French and left with the kidnappers," said the manager of the camp Kaga Tondo, Dabou Maouloud, whose establishment is located near the hotel Doumbia. "Indeed, an unknown person returned to the hotel around noon yesterday [November 23, Ed], confirms the sub-prefect of Hombori. He asked the manager to rent him a room. In the early evening he went for a stroll and at 19 hours, he took tea with the two French."
Hamidou Djiré adds that "the police arrested a suspect who is in the interrogation. This is the guide of the French, Ibrahim Ag. " The abduction brings the number of French hostages of AQIM to 6, and casts a shadow on the proposed cement plant Hombori, the people hoped to start in the coming months."
Then there are rumours... http://maliweb.net/category.php?NID=83743&intr=
that the two were not "a mining engineer and a geologist", working for the World Bank - but a mercenary tied to Bob Denard, and the other running a security company in France.
Perhaps all French are agents working for the DGSE?
Some think they went to Burkina.
"Several informants point to the direction taken by the kidnappers. This means that if they continue north from Gourma-Hombori, the kidnappers will have to cross the river. "That would not be intelligent," says an old guard who has long experience in this region. The State Defence Staff, contacted by our editor in the afternoon of Thursday, is apparently of the same opinion as he declares "we believe they continue in the direction of a neighboring country."
That can be Burkina Faso border with Mali the long strip of Agache, with less hiding places than the Adrar des Ifoghas but still an area moonscape in places."
If so, this may not be Aqim but a copycat operation by a criminal gang.
"Doubts surfaced on Friday over the identity of the two French nationals initially described as geologists who were kidnapped on Thursday in the town of Hombori, close to the border with Burkina Faso. France's Europe 1 radio said the two were known to French secret services. One, of Hungarian extraction, took part during the 1990s in the recruitment of Yugoslavian mercenaries to fight in then Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. The second was arrested in September 2003 in the Indian Ocean archipelago island Comoros for his part in an attempted coup d'etat, it said."
If they were mercenaries then what are they doing there? And for who?
French mercenaries have a long history in Africa, and it ain't over yet.
Look up Bob Denard and the tacit approval he had from the French authorities.
Pierre Camatte, a malaria drug researcher, was kidnapped near Menaka some years ago.
Rumours had it he was also working for DGSE
Ah, the intrigue.
I think what we are seeing are people (tuaregs) returning from Libya, strapped for cash, desperate for some lucrative action.
This may mean new ways of kidnapping we haven't seen before, in areas that used to be (comparatively) safe.
The tourist season in Mali is over even before it began.
One of the two vehicles found in north Mali Enlèvement au Mali: une voiture "localisée" - L'EXPRESS
according to a source in Gao, they "were divided into two groups after removal: one took the direction of the Algerian border to the north, the other, "a diversion", that of the border with Burkina Faso to the south. "
Why go south of the river if there wasn't something that made these two french special targets?
Where can you cross the river, besides T'too and Gao? There is a ferry halfway between, right?
This kidnap must have been well planned with escape routes ready. If they were indeed taken to north of the mighty Niger.
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