ALGIERS, 5 January 2021 – Algeria accused France Monday of indirectly funding terror by making ransom payments to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) fighters.
The accusation follows confirmation by security officials that the Algerian army seized $98,000 in a raid last December 28 in a hideout used by AQIM fighters.
Algerian army sources say the raid was preventive and aimed at stopping AQIM fighters from rallying following the killing last June in northern Mali of the group’s leader, Abdelmalek Droukdel.
During the raid, the Algerian army killed three AQIM fighters and seized $98,000, being a part of the ransom paid by France in exchange for the release of hostages.
Algeria accuses France of providing at least 10 million euros ($12.29 million) and up to 30 million euros ($36.88 million) as ransom to the terror group Jama’at Nasr Al-Islam wal Muslimin.
AQIM is one of four wings of the group.
Last October, Malian authorities released 207 suspected terrorists in exchange for the release of four hostages, including a French woman, Sophie Petronin.
France has denied Algerian accusations that it paid ransom to terror groups in order to free the four hostages.
French Prime Minster Jean Castex notably declared last October 12 that Paris was “not part of the ransom negotiations”.
Algerian authorities hold that France’s willingness to provide payoffs to terrorists violates the 2014 United Nations resolution which criminalizes the payment of ransom.
The Paris-based newsmagazine Jeune Afrique commented that “the payment of ransom for the release of Western hostages in the Sahel region is a routine procedure”.
Ransom payments in exchange for the release of hostages are “carried out in most ases with no official confirmation or comment on its accuracy,” the paper added.
Algiers insisted Monday that ransoms paid by France negatively affect Algeria’s internal security and stability”.
Funds earned by hostage takers can only make the “business of terror” a profitable undertaking, encouraging more recruitment by terror groups.