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Video: French hostage kidnapped in Mali pleads for release

© Screen grab: Akhbar al-Aan TV

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-06-05

A video of a French hostage urging President François Hollande to negotiate his release was broadcast on an Arabic TV station Tuesday, more than two years after the Paris-based businessman was kidnapped in Mali.

Wearing a black turban and sporting a long beard, Serge Lazarevic stated his name, the date and place of his abduction, and said the video was recorded on May 13, 2014 before going on to ask Hollande to “do everything to negotiate my release so I can return home”.

Lazarevic was kidnapped by al Qaeda’s North African branch, AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), from the northern Malian town of Hombori on November 29, 2011.

The Paris-based businessman was seized along with a French geologist, Philippe Verdon, a year before northern Mali fell to jihadist control following a March 2012 military coup.

In July 2013, French authorities confirmed that Verdon had been killed following an AQIM statement that the group had killed the French geologist “in retaliation” for the French military operation in Mali launched in January 2013.

In a short clip of the latest video aired on the Dubai-based Akhbar Al Aan TV station on Tueday, Lazarevic appears to be in good health and seems to be reading his short message without looking directly into the camera. Flanked by two masked jihadist fighters in sunglasses, Lazarevic delivers his message in French.

'I have many health problems'

The full video, which was broadcast later Tuesday, featured the 50-year-old Frenchman providing a few details of his condition. “I’m in a critical situation that is becoming more and more intolerable,” he said. “I have many health problems and the climate is very difficult. ”

He then went on to plead with Hollande once again “to do everything for my liberation as has been done for the other French people who were in the same fate as me and who you have given special attention.”

Lazarevic is the last French hostage still in captivity after Hollande issued a statement in April saying Gilberto Rodrigues Leal was “probably dead”. Leal was captured in northern Mali in November 2012 and was held hostage by the Islamist group, MUJAO (Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa).

Since his kidnapping from a small hotel in Hombori, AQIM has periodically released images of Lazarevic in captivity.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said his government continues to work to secure the release of Lazarevic.

"We are working while trying to be most efficient but also most discreet," said Fabius in an interview with the French Public Senat TV station.

Date created : 2014-06-03

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