North African jihadist group Al-Mourabitoun said it was holding a Romanian mine worker who was kidnapped in Burkina Faso last month, in an audio message released Monday by Mauritanian media, timesofisrael.com informs.
The Arabic recording, attributed to Adnan Abu Walid Sahraoui, named as the group’s leader, called on “the Romanian government to give serious attention to negotiations for the release of the hostage held by the group.”
The security officer was taken on April 4 when five armed men attacked a manganese mine in Tambao, 350 kilometres (220 miles) northeast of the capital, Ouagadougou.
The unidentified gunmen took off in the direction of the nearby border with Mali, according to security officials in both countries, with no group so far making a credible claim for the kidnapping.
“The Romanian government bears all responsibility for the fate of the hostage if it is slow to take the opportunity given to free its citizen,” the recording claimed, in an apparent reference to Bucharest’s unwillingness to engage in negotiations.
The message, which was released by Al-Akhbar – a Mauritanian news agency which regularly carries jihadist statements – ended with a reiterated pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State.
This follows a similar pledge of allegiance from Sahraoui last week, which was immediately denied by the group’s notorious Algerian commander Mokhtar Belmokhtar. The disagreement appears to be the latest episode in a power struggle at the heart of Al-Mourabitoun.
The organisation was formed in 2013 by the merger of the Signatories in Blood group, led by Belmokhtar, and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), which had been highly active in Mali’s Gao region. The contradictory statements have been interpreted as pointing to Sahraoui’s rise and the possibility of a schism developing.
Foreign Ministry: The crisis unit analyzes the information
The crisis unit that manages the situation in Burkina Faso of the Romanian citizen kidnapped analyzes on audio message on the Romanian citizen, the Foreign Ministry (MAE) informs in a release on Tuesday.
“Romanian authorities, represented in the institutional crisis unit of the Foreign Ministry convened after the abduction, is urgently checking the veracity of the information presented in the news, including the audio message. The MAE crisis cell (which also includes SIE, SRI, Defence Ministry, Presidential Administration) is working continuously to manage the situation,” MAE informs.
Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu is coming back from Brussels today as a matter of urgency following information about the Romanian kidnapped in Burkina Faso.
PM Victor Ponta informed this case is managed by the crisis cell within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, adding that President Iohannis was also informed about this and they would probably have a meeting today on this topic.
The Interior Minister Gabriel Oprea said that he had talked on Tuesday with Interpol secretary general Jürgen Stock about the kidnapping in order to get an information exchange, considering that Interpol has a long experience in terrorist cases.
Former director of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI), George Maior also reacted on this matter, warning that Romania ‘is not absolved of the terrorist danger’. He added the fact that Romania is a generic target for many terrorist organizations should make authorities sit up and take notice while implementing the necessary legislation.
“I regret we have to find out these news, unfortunately I have no information on this case (…) I said that such risks are seriously warning that we are not spared of the terrorist danger, and it is not only the case of the national territory, which I say it’s well protected, but it’s about Romanian citizens worldwide,” Maior mentioned.
Kidnapped on April 4
A Romanian security guard employed by a mining company owned by businessman Frank Timis was kidnapped on April 4 in Burkina Faso by armed individuals.
Gherghu? Iulian, of Romanian origin, having French citizenship is the person kidnapped. According to witnesses, a policeman who tried to intervene was injured by assailants armed with AK 47 Kalashnikov guns.
“There was an attack on one of our patrols,” said Souleymane Mihin, Burkina Faso managing director for Pan African Minerals. “They kidnapped the Romanian leading the patrol. The driver was wounded in the foot. A gendarme was seriously injured.”
A Burkinabe security source said the five gunmen involved in the attack headed towards the nearby border with northern Mali after kidnapping the Romanian.
The incident took place early afternoon and teams had been scrambled in Burkina Faso to search for the man, he said.