A French hostage has been killed in retaliation for France's intervention in Mali, a local website claims. Paris is still investigating the validity of the claims, apparently from al Qaeda's offshoot in North Africa.
Private Mauritanian news agency ANI reported on Tuesday that an individual calling himself al Qairawani had claimed the killing on behalf of al Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM).
The spokesman claimed that French national Philippe Verdon had been beheaded in retaliation for France's intervention against Islamists in Mali. ANI reported that the claim was made in a telephone call by al Qairawani, who described Verdon as a French spy. He added that French President Francois Hollande bore the responsibility for all remaining French hostages.
A spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry in Paris said officials were trying to verify the report. "We are checking, but we don't know any more for the moment," spokesman Philippe Lalliot told the AFP news agency.
A total of 15 French nationals, including Verdon, are believed to be being held captive in West Africa, with AQIM claiming responsibility for six of the kidnappings.
Verdon and another Frenchman, Serge Lazarevic, were kidnapped from their hotel room in Hombori, northeastern Mali, in November, 2011. The families of the two men claim they were on a business trip.
In January, France launched its campaign to drive out Islamist militants who had taken over the north of the country. At the time, leading AQIM member Moktar Belmoktar - since reported to have been killed - vowed that the group would take revenge.
- AFP, dpa, Reuters