News / Africa

Former US Ambassador Says France Indirectly Paid Islamist Militants

Vicki Huddleston during a news conference in Havana, September 6, 2002.
Vicki Huddleston during a news conference in Havana, September 6, 2002.
VOA News
A former U.S. diplomat says France channeled millions of dollars in ransom payments to the Islamist militants it is now fighting in Mali.

Vicki Huddleston, the former U.S. ambassador to Mali, spoke in an interview that aired Friday on the French TV station iTele. She said France paid $17 million to secure the release of French citizens kidnapped by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb [A.Q.I.M.]) in northern Niger in 2010.

The former ambassador said the payments were made indirectly, with the money ending up in the hands of the Malian government. She said at least part of the payment was then turned over to militants, who used the money to purchase weapons and recruit.

Claude Gueant, who served as former French President Nicolas Sarkozy's chief of staff, denied that France made ransom payments. He told iTele that intermediaries negotiated to free the hostages.

French President Francois Hollande has not commented on Huddleston's allegations. On the sidelines of an European Union meeting in Brussels on Friday, though, he referenced seven French hostages currently held in the Sahel region.

Hollande said France is seeking contacts but that, in his words, "the question of finances cannot be raised" to secure the hostages' freedom.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Washington shares a concern with Huddleston that al-Qaida and other militant groups use hostage-taking as a means of financial support.

Huddleston said other countries had paid ransoms that financed the armed Islamist groups that seized control of northern Mali last year.  She said the figure that she had "seen in print" was about $89 million.

She said while governments have denied paying ransoms, "everyone" was aware that money had "passed hands indirectly, through different accounts" and had ended up in the "treasury" of groups such as A.Q.I.M.

In the interview, Huddleston praised France for launching the January military intervention in Mali that resulted in the ouster of Islamist militants from their strongholds in the country's north. Huddleston said she believed the French had "saved" Mali, a former French colony.

Huddleston served as U.S. ambassador to Mali from 2002 to 2005.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid