- al Qaeda - France - hostages - Mali - Nicolas Sarkozy
Released French hostage describes Malian ordeal
Released French hostage Pierre Camatte arrived on French soil from Mali on Thursday morning. In a series of interviews he described his daily beatings by the al Qaeda-linked group keeping him hostage.
French aid worker Pierre Camatte arrived on French soil on Thursday after a three-month ordeal in which he was kidnapped and held hostage by al Qaeda’s North African wing in Mali. His release came after Mali freed four Islamist prisoners that al Qaeda had demanded be freed by Feb. 22 to ensure Camatte was not executed.
Before his arrival in France, Camatte was in the Malian capital of Bamako, where he met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who thanked his Malian counterpart Amadou Toumani Touré for securing Camatte’s release.
“Every day, I was certain that it would be the last day I would ever see”
In an interview on Thursday morning in Bamako with France Info, the 61-year-old Camatte described his harrowing experience, saying, “Five men were involved in my kidnapping, I was outnumbered. They handcuffed me, gagged me, and dragged me to their vehicle which was five to six metres away. Then they threw me in the back of the truck like a bag of dirty laundry.”
He added, “Every day, I was certain that it would be the last day I would ever see, but managed to keep sane by telling himself: 'Pierre, you must not lose hold of yourself in front of these people.'"
At a press conference in Bamako, also on Thursday morning, alongside Sarkozy, Camatte said, “The worst of it was that I was promised medical care. But there was nothing, nothing, nothing. No care. In addition we were isolated, we couldn’t go anywhere, there was the heat of the Sahara, the deplorable hygiene conditions, absolutely disgusting food and drink.” He added that on a daily basis he was beaten and threatened at gunpoint with Kalashnikovs.
Camatte told the press that his captors were religious extremists who believed that they were in possession of the “supreme truth", and that their practice was to recruit young people.
“They said that French Muslims were not real Muslims, that only they themselves were in possession of the truth, and that their goal was to Islamise the whole world. They were fanatics.”
He added, “They primarily recruit young people. About 70-80% of their lot were youths. And therein lies the problem.”
While in Bamako, Camatte thanked the Malian president for intervening on his behalf: “I am particularly happy to thank the president of the Republic of Mali for his personal involvement. He used that very word: it was to him a personal matter – he thought of me as one of his Malian children.”
Sarkozy also expressed his gratitude: “France will not forget this gesture. I want to tell the Malians that in the war against al Qaeda, terrorists, and assassins, France will be at your side.”