Screenshot from the video released by Al Murabitoon
Al Murabitoon, a jihadist group loyal to al Qaeda that operates in Mali and across the Sahara, has released a short video in which a Romanian hostage is shown speaking to the camera. It was produced by Al Ribat Media, the official propaganda wing of Al Murabitoon, and released to YouTube before being quickly taken down. The hostage is identified as Iulian Ghergut in the video, which has had English subtitles added into it after being re-uploaded to a different file sharing website.
The beginning of the video shows Ghergut, sitting in front of masked gunmen, stating the date in which it was filmed, August 18. He then states he was kidnapped by Al Murabitoon in Tambao, near the border with Mali in Burkina Faso. Afterwards, he appeals to his family directly by saying he wants them to “just help me get out of this as soon as possible.” Shifting his attention to the director of Pan African Minerals, the company he worked for, and the governments of Burkina Faso and Romania, Gherghut states that they should “help release me and assist in negotiations.”
Ghergut was kidnapped from a manganese mine in northern Burkina Faso in early April of this year. Al Murabitoon quickly put out a statement to the Mauritanian news agency Al Akhbar, in which the group took credit for the kidnapping.
Al Murabitoon, led by veteran al Qaeda figure Mokhtar Belmokhtar, has been behind several attacks in Mali this year, many of which have taken place in the capital of Bamako. The attacks include an assault on a Malian nightclub, which killed five people, an attempted assassination of a Malian general, and an attack on UN troops. The group was also behind last month’s hotel siege in the central Malian city of Sevare. [See this map by The Long War Journal for more information on Al Qaeda-linked attacks in Mali and neighboring countries.]
On August 7, jihadists stormed the Byblos hotel in Sevare, which is a trading hub in the Mopti region of central Mali. At least 12 people were killed in the attack, including five UN personnel. [See LWJ report, Suspected jihadists attack hotel in central Mali.]