Al-Qaida blames France for Sahel hostage deadlock

PARIS - A leader of al-Qaida's North African arm, AQIM, has accused France of failing to engage in negotiations to release French hostages the group is holding in the Sahel.
In a four-minute video message carried by regional news website Sahara Media, Abdel Hamid Abu Zeid said four hostages seized in Niger two years ago were alive and said Paris had not taken up AQIM's invitation to negotiate their release.
"About a year ago we alerted France to our willingness to negotiate and since then we have been waiting for a response," Abu Zeid said in a French transcript provided by Sahara Media, viewed as a reliable news portal with strong Islamist contacts.