January 12, 2013 / 2:49 PM / 7 years ago

Mali action puts French citizens at risk - Islamists

BAMAKO (Reuters) - France’s military intervention against Islamist fighters in northern Mali puts French hostages and other French citizens at risk, a spokesman for insurgent group Ansar Dine said on Saturday.

“There are consequences, not only for French hostages, but also for all French citizens wherever they find themselves in the Muslim world,” Sanda Ould Boumama told Reuters.

“We are going to continue resisting and defend ourselves. We are ready to die fighting.”

Ansar Dine, whose stronghold is the historic city of Timbuktu, is a close ally of al Qaeda’s North African wing AQIM, which is also fighting Malian forces backed by French air power.

AQIM and its allies are holding eight French nationals in the sparsely populated Sahel region following a series of kidnappings.

“The hostages are facing death ... Francois Hollande seems to wish the death of the hostages. He has chosen the war solution so that the hostages will be killed rather than negotiate,” Boumama said.

A spokesman for AQIM earlier urged France, in a video posted on the Internet, to reconsider its intervention. “Stop your assault against us or you are digging your own sons’ graves,” said Abdallah Al-Chinguetti.

The French Foreign Ministry on Friday advised the 6,000 French citizens living in Mali to leave the country.

Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Andrew Roche

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