Apr 27 - Al Qaeda branch releases messages from four French hostages held in Niger, as the militant group reiterates its demand that France withdraw from Afghanistan. Simon Hanna reports.
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A message from al Qaeda to French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
The militant group's North African branch released messages on Tuesday from four Frenchman it kidnapped in Niger.
Released on Islamist internet forums, the tapes show still photos of the four men, accompanied a recorded message.
Each hostage says his name, age and where he is from, and then implores Sarkozy to withdraw French troops from Afghanistan.
The Frenchmen, along with three other foreigners, have been held hostage since September.
In Paris, the secretary of state for European Affairs gave say the video requires close scrutiny.
(SOUNDBITE) (French) SECRETARY OF STATE FOR EUROPEAN AFFAIRS LAURENT WAUQUIEZ SAYING:
"You'll understand that this requires that we be extremely careful with what we say. For the moment what I can tell you is that we need to expertise this video and especially to make sure that this video shows that our hostages are still alive. Secondly, we are doing everything, I say everything so that our hostages are freed. I have nothing else to say on this matter."
The minister went on to say that French foreign policy is not dictated by hostage takers.
In January, global Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden called on Sarkozy to withdraw troops in order to secure the release of the captives.
France responded by expressing its commitment to the international force in Afghanistan.
Simon Hanna, Reuters.
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