It appears the mayor of Tirkent Ould Sheikh is on the job again. He seems to be the regular gobetween in the Mali kidnappings.
With the Canadians he claimed he was never even paid.
AFP: Contacts to free Europeans held by Al-Qaeda in Africa
"BAMAKO — Intermediaries have contacted Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) to obtain the release of a Frenchman kidnapped in Mali and three Spaniards abducted in Mauritania, several sources said Friday.
According to information obtained by AFP, at least three intermediaries are trying to obtain the freedom of the four Europeans held since late November in a desert region on the border between Mali and Algeria.
"We check everything, we pay attention to the slightest detail that could be useful in these cases and efforts are speeding up," a Malian security source told AFP.
The "historic channel" -- the name given to negotiations led by dignitaries from northern Mali -- is active again.
One of these notables, involved since 2003 in efforts to free hostages in northern Mali, is on the ground where he can talk to the kidnappers. "This contact is there, but I can't say any more," a Malian source close to the case said.
France has sent a team of specialists to Bamako to "push forward the dossier," but they became irritated after the press published articles about the hostage affair, the same source said.
According to the scenario developed over the years, intermediaries make contact with the kidnappers, then return with their demands, which usually includes the release of detained Islamist activists.
Then begins the back-and-forth process between kidnappers and authorities.
"We remain prudent, but optimistic. Things are moving, rather fast," said the Malian security source.
A foreign source close to the case stressed that "France, Spain, Mali and Mauritania work hand-in-hand. It's clear that the objective is to obtain the release of the four Europeans together."
Frenchman Pierre Camatte, 61, was seized on November 26 in the Malian town of Menaka, more than 1,500 kilometres (930 miles) northeast of Bamako. Three days later, armed men kidnapped the three Spaniards -- Roque Pascual, 50, Albert Vilalta, 35, and Alicia Gamez, 35 -- on the Nouadhibou-Nouakchott coast road in Mauritania. They were at the tail end of an aid convoy.
The North African branch of Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for both kidnappings on December 8.
At first, it appeared that the French hostage were in the hands of Abdelhamid Abu Zeid, an Algerian and one of the most radical emirs of AQIM, while the three Spaniards were being held by another Algerian, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, alias Belawar, reputedly more "moderate."
Later, a well-informed source affirmed that the Europeans were all being held by the hardline wing of AQIM, the group led by Abu Zeid, who executed British hostage Edwin Dyer in June.
Since then, it would be wiser simply to say that the four hostages are "in the hands of AQIM," several sources told AFP. "Whether it's Abu Zeid, Belawar, or even Abu Yaha Amane (another AQIM chief closer to Abu Zeid than Belawar), there are links among them all," a foreign security source said.
"That's an advantage for negotiations, but it's also a drawback," the source added. "To toughen up negotiations, one part of the group can play the 'bad guys' while the other plays the 'good guys'."