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Algeria seizes nearly $100,000 militants’ ransom cash

By AFP - Dec 29,2020 - Last updated at Dec 29,2020

ALGIERS — Algeria’s army has retrieved a “slice of the ransom” cash paid out to free hostages held by “terrorist groups” in the troubled Sahel region, the defence ministry has said.

Soldiers “recovered the sum of 80,000 euros” ($97,900) during an operation in Algeria’s north-eastern Jijel province, a statement issued late Monday said.

Algerian authorities use the term “terrorist” to describe armed Islamists who have been active in the country since the early 1990s, including members of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

The defence ministry said the cash was an “instalment of the ransom” paid out in a controversial October agreement, where neighbouring Mali released some 200 prisoners including militant leaders to secure the release of four hostages, including French aid worker Sophie Petronin.

Algeria condemned the deal, and Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad said the payment of ransoms “undermines our counter-terrorism efforts”.

Algiers said it had subsequently arrested several extremist fighters who had fled across the porous desert border from Mali.

Earlier this month, in the same Jijel province, three Islamists fighters and an Algerian soldier were killed in clashes, while on December 16, troops arrested a man they described as “dangerous terrorist”, named Rezkane Ahcene.

One of the men later arrested in Algeria alleged that a ransom was paid totalling “millions” of euros.


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