Spain says al Qaeda Africa kidnap claim credible

MADRID Tue Dec 8, 2009 2:10pm GMT

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MADRID (Reuters) - A claim by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb that it was responsible for the November kidnapping of three Spanish aid workers in Mauritania and one Frenchman in Mali is credible, Spain's Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

The claim was made in an audio tape passed to the Doha-based Al Jazeera television network.

"(Spanish Foreign Ministry) experts, who have worked on this since early this morning, say this claim is credible," the ministry said in a statement.

"The recording specifies the names of those kidnapped ... no demands have been made for their release but it said it would do so in later messages to the respective governments," the statement said.

Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said last month that al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb appeared to have been responsible for kidnapping the three Spanish nationals.

"France and Spain will be informed later of the legitimate demands of the mujahedeen," an al Qaeda spokesman, who identified himself as Saleh Abu Mohammad, said on the tape, Al Jazeera reported.

Three Spanish aid workers disappeared in Mauritania on November 29 after an attack on the road between the capital Nouakchott and the coastal trading city of Nouadhibou.

Gunman also kidnapped a French national in Mali's remote east on November 26, a government source said, prompting the French government to ask its citizens to leave northern and eastern Mali because of an increased militant threat level.

(Reporting by Paul Day; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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