For Immediate Release
African Al Qaeda Should Stop Targeting Civilians
Algeria Summit States Should Urge End to Murders, Kidnappings
DAKAR - Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has in recent months stepped
up targeting tourists and aid workers for murder and kidnapping in Mali,
Niger, and Mauritania, Human Rights Watch said today. AQIM should
immediately and unconditionally free hostages in its custody and end
attacks on civilians, Human Rights Watch said.
The organization also called on foreign ministers from Algeria,
Burkina Faso, Chad, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger, meeting today in
Algeria, to categorically denounce AQIM's attacks against civilians, as
well as a threat by AQIM made in a March 11 statement to Spanish Daily El
Pais, which underscored the group's willingness to attack
civilians. The threat suggested Spain would be "paid in kind" in "a war
that does not distinguish between civilians and militants."
"Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb's crimes against tourists and aid
workers should galvanize governments into action to protect civilians,"
said Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.
"AQIM should free its hostages and end such attacks. And foreign
ministers from the region should insist that those responsible are
brought to justice."
The AQIM statement to El Pais also referred to "demands" to
the Spanish government to secure the release of two Spanish aid workers
it admitted kidnapping in Mauritania on November 29. The communiqué did
not specify the demands. A third Spanish aid worker detained at the same
time, Alicia Gamez, was released by AQIM on March 10.
Formerly known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, the
group affiliated itself with al Qaeda in January 2007, and has since
extended its operations from Algeria to other North African and Sahel
AQIM has been implicated in the deliberate killing of scores of
civilians, including the December 28, 2009 killing of four Saudi
tourists in Niger; the June 23, 2009 killing of an American missionary
in Mauritania; the May 31, 2009 killing
of a British tourist; the December 2007 killing of four French tourists
in Mauritania; and the December 2007 twin bombings of the United
Nations offices and a court building in Algiers that left 41 dead.
In addition to the November kidnapping of the three Spanish aid
workers, AQIM also recently kidnapped two Italian tourists in Mauritania
on December 18. A French aid worker kidnapped in Niger on November 25
was released on February 23.
"AQIM's criminal acts against civilians demonstrate an utter contempt
for human life," Dufka said. "They should immediately desist from
committing such crimes."
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Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.