AQIM – Lazarevic: a hostage exchange incriminates the Polisario

The release of a Polisario member and three other jihadists in exchange for the liberation of French hostage Serge Lazarevic has greatly embarrassed the Sahrawi separatist movement, since the release confirms once again the front’s links with terrorist groups despite its repeated denials, informed sources in Tindouf said.
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Malian authorities released last week the four jihadists who were detained in Mali for terrorist activities in exchange for the liberation of the French hostage. During the negotiations, AQIM (Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) insisted on the release of the Polisario activist Habib Ould Mahouloud and three other fighters, namely Mohamed Aly Ag Wadoussène, Haïba Ag Achérif and a Tunisian jihadist Osama bin Gouzzi.
This exchange corroborates several reports on the documented collusion between terrorist groups in the Sahel and the Algeria-backed Polisario Front, which claims the independence of Western Sahara. Questions about the inside story of the release, on December 9, of Serge Lazarevic, who had been detained by AQIM for three years, were finally answered by Malian Minister of Justice, Mohamed Ali Bathily.
The Malian official recognized last Friday that Serge Lazarevic had been released in an exchange of prisoners, at the request of France.
Human rights NGOs’ vehement protest against this exchange has surely embarrassed Paris, but it kept silence on the deal with AQIM and did not respond to the denunciation of the move by the FIDH as well as by the Malian Human Rights Association (AMDH) and other NGOs.
It goes without saying that the release of jihadists involved in terrorist acts deal a blow to counter-terrorism efforts and to the fight against impunity.
Secretary General of the AMDH, Amadou B. Téguété, denounced the release of the four terrorists that he described as “bandits (part) of the armed groups that attacked the Malian Nation.”

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