Algeria hostage takers propose prisoner swap
NOUAKCHOTT - Gunmen in Algeria want to swap American hostages they are holding for Islamist prisoners held in the United States, the ANI news agency quoted sources close to their leader as saying on Friday.
The abductors, who are also holding other Algerian and foreign hostages, have also demanded negotiations for an end to French intervention in Mali, the agency said, quoting sources close to Mohktar Belmokhtar.
Veteran Islamist fighter Belmokhtar, a one-eyed Algerian jihadist with Al-Qaeda ties, has claimed responsibility for launching Wednesday's attack.
ANI said Belmokhtar, in a video that would be distributed to the media, proposed proposed that "France and Algeria negotiate an end to the war being waged by France in Azawad" (northern Mali).
He also proposed "exchanging American hostages held by his group (the 'Signatories in Blood')" for Egyptian Omar Abdul Rahman and Pakistani Aafia Siddiqui, who are jailed in the United States on charges of terrorist links.
Abdul Rahman, the spiritual leader of the radical Jamaa Islamiya group, was convicted in 1995 for his role in a 1993 attack on the World Trade Centre in New York City, in which six people were killed.
He is serving a life sentence for the attack in which hundreds more people were injured when a truck bomb was detonated in the building's garage.
Abdul Rahman, known as the "blind sheikh," was also convicted of plotting to bomb other New York targets including the United Nations and a plan to assassinate ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
Mubarak's successor, Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, said earlier this month he will urge US President Barack Obama to free Abdul Rahman, during a visit he is due to make to the United States later before the end of March.
Siddiqui, a US-educated neuroscientist, is an Al-Qaeda-linked would-be extremist who tried to murder American officers on July 18, 2008, after she was detained by security services in Afghanistan. - Rappler.com