Thursday, August 04, 2005

Thanks for the solidarity, mes amis

According to the South African news website News 24 the French government did after all pay a ransom to secure the release of Liberation newspaper correspondent Florence Aubenas and her Iraqi interpreter in June.

In all, France has paid millions of dollars for the release of three journalists kidnapped in Iraq and its foreign intelligence service now knows the identity of the abductors. This is from a reporter, Roger Auque, who was himself held hostage in Lebanon in 1987.

Auque has been telling Afrique Magazine that - despite official denials - the French government had paid $6m to free. Two other French journalists who had been released last December, Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, were handed over in exchange for $2m, Auque said, relying on what he described as "a reliable source" for his information.

Officers in DGSE foreign intelligence service "have identified the abductors and the place they had been held", said the journalist, who has written a book about his own captivity at the hands of Hezbollah. "In the basement of the DGSE in Paris the cellphone numbers of the abductors and their photos are stuck on a wall next to a map of Iraq," he said.

"Kidnappers never say at the start that they want money. They prefer to depict themselves as a political or religious movement. "Then they make it understood that all that costs a lot of money and that financial help would be welcome. "A figure is then suggested," he told the magazine.

This is especially relevant in view of an article in the current edition of DefenseNews which suggests that the roadside bombers in Iraq, called "emplacers", are primarily motivated by money, being paid as little as $50 for placing a bomb. Lubricated by French money, the bombers can now afford a lot more staff.

It is so nice to see our friends and allies standing firm alongside us all in the war against terror.

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