DUBAI (AFP) – Al-Qaeda’s North African branch has threatened to execute a captive Briton if the British government does not release a Muslim cleric within 20 days, SITE Intelligence Group reported on Sunday.
The threat to kill the Briton comes in a statement by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb posted on jihadist forums on April 26, said SITE, a US group which monitors Islamist websites.
The authenticity of the statement could not immediately be verified.
The Al-Qaeda group, according to SITE, is seeking freedom for Islamist cleric Abu Qatada, currently held in a British prison.
“We declare that the organisation still holds the British tourist and the Swiss tourist until the achievement of our legitimate demands,” SITE quoted the Al-Qaeda statement as saying.
The statement did not set out the terms for the Swiss tourist’s release.
Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure was reported on Saturday as saying his country is doing all it can to free two remaining hostages out of six kidnapped by Islamic extremists in the Sahel region in separate incidents in December and January.
Two Canadian diplomats and two European women tourists were released on Wednesday and flown to the Malian capital Bamako, but Swiss Gabriella Greitner’s husband Werner and a Briton, who has not been identified, are still being held.
The remote Sahel region borders half-a-dozen countries and illegal activities are rampant.
Abu Qatada, whose real name is Omar Mahmud Mohammed Othman, was formerly regarded as Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe. He is fighting a deportation order to Jordan, saying he risks being tortured in his home country.
He has had political asylum in Britain since 1993 and is wanted in Jordan for funding a terrorist network known as Reform and Challenge (Al-Islah Wal Tahhadi) which was dismantled in 1999.