Nigerian Islamists release video of French hostage
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A video purporting to show French hostage Francis Collomp, kidnapped in December by Islamists in Nigeria, was released by his captors on Friday. The 63-year-old is seen pleading for the French and Nigerian governments to secure his freedom.
A French hostage kidnapped by the Nigerian Islamic group Ansaru has pleaded for help from the French and Nigerian governments to secure his release in a video released by his captors, according to the jihadi monitoring website SITE Intelligence Group.
Should it prove authentic, it would be the first video of 63-year-old Francis Collomp since his kidnapping on December 19 last year.
The footage, posted on the internet Friday, shows Collomp reading a statement in English in which he confirms his identity and says that the video was filmed on September 25, said SITE.
Collomp, an engineer with the French firm Vergnet, had been working on a wind power project in Katsina, a state in northern Nigeria, when he was taken hostage by a group of some 30 gunmen who stormed the compound where he was staying.
Ansaru claimed the abduction days later, citing France's push for military intervention against the Islamist rebels who had seized northern Mali as justification.
"It is urgent that my family and friends and my fellow citizens of France and anyone else who can, do something. The French and the Nigerian governments should [get involved] for my sake and [pursue] negotiations for my safe release, please," Collomp said, wearing a white T-shirt as an unidentified armed man stood behind him.
In the latter half of the three-minute video, the camera focuses on an Arabic statement that addresses "the government(s) of France and Nigeria," according to the translation provided by SITE.
While there is no direct threat of further attacks, or on Collomp's life, the statement vows to treat "treachery and treason" by the French or Nigerian governments with "reciprocity".
‘I did not even recognize my husband’
After seeing the video, Collomp’s wife expressed concern for her husband’s well-being, saying that he had already been suffering from ill health before the kidnapping.
"I did not even recognize my husband," Anne-Marie Collomp told France Info radio on Saturday . "He looked very tired and thin.”
“He is alive and that makes me happy but it still hurts. I hope it won't last much longer and I hope that [French President] Hollande will do everything he can to get him out.”
The abductee's brother, Denis Collomp, told the AFP news agency of his relief at seeing the images, while still fearing for his safety.
"I'm relieved, it's good, even though he looked tired," he said from his home in southeastern France.
But he added: "Ansaru have never released a single hostage, so it's still very worrying," recalling that his brother had undergone a triple heart bypass in the past.
Ansaru is considered by some to be a breakaway faction of Boko Haram, Nigeria's more prominent Islamist group which has waged a deadly insurgency since 2009.
The links between the two organisations remain in question, but some analysts have said that Ansaru might have emerged from a faction within Boko Haram that sought to specifically target foreign interests.
Ansaru has been blamed for the 2011 kidnapping of a Briton and an Italian national in northern Nigeria. Both hostages were killed in March of last year.
Britain, which has formally labelled Ansaru a terrorist organisation, said the group likely has ties to al Qaeda's north Africa franchise, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Ansaru also claimed the kidnapping of seven foreign nationals working on a construction project in northern Bauchi state in February.
A video later posted online appeared to show some of those hostages being killed.
After raising its international profile, Ansaru's prominence faded and it has not been linked to an attack for several months.
The Islamist violence in northern Nigeria has however continued unchecked, with hundreds of people killed this year in attacks blamed on Boko Haram.
Northeast Nigeria has been under a state of emergency since mid-May, when the military launched an offensive aimed at crushing the insurgency.
But the slaughter of dozens of people in recent weeks, mainly civilians, has cast doubt on the success of the military campaign.
Nigeria is Africa's most populous country and top oil producer, where most in the north are Muslim and the south is predominately Christian.
Boko Haram has said it wants to create an Islamic state in the north and is thought to primarily have a domestic agenda.
Ansaru is seen by some as having a more international outlook, perhaps more closely aligned with al Qaeda-affiliated groups.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)