In Paris as in Niamey, one key word: say as little as possible. The release of French journalist Olivier Dubois on March 20 in Niger, after almost two years of captivity in the Sahel, is the culmination of a “maneuver carried by Niger”drops a source at the Elysée, obviously anxious not to appear in the front line. You don’t have to “discover the machine”, explains a high-ranking source in Niamey.
It is as much a question of keeping the intermediaries in the shadows as of avoiding the inevitable embarrassing questions: what were the counterparties offered to the kidnappers in exchange for the release of the Frenchman, kidnapped on April 8, 2021 in Gao, in the northeast from Mali, and Jeffery Woodke, an American humanitarian detained since October 2016? Has a ransom been paid? These questions have not yet been answered, but The world is able to trace certain details of the negotiations.
According to our information, to extract Olivier Dubois from the hands of the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM, the Sahelian subsidiary of Al-Qaeda), several Malian intermediaries intervened in the file. Mali’s High Islamic Council (HCI), a very influential religious body headed by Sheikh Chérif Ousmane Madani Haïdara, had meetings with diplomats from the French Embassy in Bamako, but “it remained unofficial and did not go very far”, explains a framework of the HCI which federates the Muslim organizations of the country.
At the same time, another channel was opened, that of Abdoul Karim Ag-Matafa, a member of the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), the coalition of former Tuareg and Arab rebels in northern Mali, who has good contacts within the jihadist movement. But these networks fail to advance discussions with the GSIM.
Hopes are focused on a central character from northern Mali: Ahmada Ag-Bibi. This Tuareg Ifoghas renowned for his links with Iyad Ag-Ghali, the head of GSIM, but also with the Malian and Algerian intelligence services, is called upon. He had contributed to the release of the French hostage Sophie Pétronin and the Malian opponent Soumaïla Cissé, obtained in exchange for 190 jihadists imprisoned in Bamako and 2 million euros in October 2020. Joined by The worldthe person concerned assures that he is not “neither closely nor remotely involved in these discussions” and having learned of the release of the two hostages ” on the radio “. However, several sources confirm his involvement in the case, but not necessarily until its outcome.
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