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Bin Laden wanted French hostages spared until after presidential poll

Reuters/Pentagon/Handout

Osama bin Laden wanted Al-Qaeda in north Africa to keep French hostages alive until after the presidential election currently taking place, a letter released by US secret services shows. He feared that Libyans would be shocked by their execution because he believed President Nicolas Sarkozy was popular there.

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In a letter dated 26 April 2011, just a week before American forces shot him dead in his Pakistani compound, bin Laden warned Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim) against killing the hostages – at least until after the presidential poll.

Dossier: AfPak news and analysis

Aqim is currently holding 19 hostages and abducted the French nationals from a uranium mine run by French form Areva in northern Niger in September 2010.

Most of the “common people” of Libya supported Sarkozy because of his backing of the uprising against Moamer Kadhafi, bin Laden said.

"So if we need to kill them then that should be after the end of Libyan events and their developments," he says, adding later that it would be better to do so after the presidential poll.

"If that is difficult then they should exchange half of them and keep the other half which should be the higher ranking and the more important ones, and if that also is difficult then they should at a minimum keep the most important man of them till the French elections," the letter says.

Bin Laden urged that any negotiations over the hostages should "not be public" and that Aqim should "place a time limit on it so that the French do not postpone the exchange".

Letters made public by the US Thursday also reveal:

Bin Laden was worried about civilian casualties in attacks in Muslim countries;

He pressed the Pakistani Taliban to stop attacks on mosques and markets;

He turned down a request from Somalia’s Al-Shebab for closer ties with Al-Qaeda;

He declared that the movement’s security measures “makes their technological advance a loss and a disappointment to them” a week before he was killed;

His media adviser in the US found CNN too close to the government, MSNBC “neutral a bit” until it fired to journalists and hoped Fox News would “die in her anger”.
 

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