World News

Former US Ambassador Says France Indirectly Paid Islamist Militants



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 which aired Friday on the French television station iTele.

Huddleston 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 says 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. But on the sidelines of an European Union meeting in Brussels on Friday, he referenced seven French hostages currently held in the Sahel region.

He 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 which 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.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs