NICOSIA (AFP) – Al-Qaeda's north African branch said in a statement Saturday that eight European hostages it is holding are alive and well, promising to release a new video of the five Frenchmen among them.
Earlier in the day demonstrations were held in several towns and cities in France in a show of support for four of the French hostages who have been held by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) for 1,000 days.
Thierry Dol, Daniel Larribe, Pierre Legrand and Marc Feret -- mostly working for French public nuclear giant Areva and its subcontractor Satom -- were kidnapped in Niger by Al-Qaeda-linked militants on September 16 in 2010.
Francoise Larribe, wife of Daniel, was also captured but was released in 2011.
"We would like to reassure the families and parents of the hostages of their childrens' safety... We will soon, God willing, air a new video showing the five French hostages," AQIM said in a statement reproduced on several jihadist websites.
The fifth French hostage, Serge Lazarevic, was kidnapped in November 2011 in northeast Mali.
There were no details given of the nationalities and identities of the three other hostages mentioned in the AQIM statement.
Saturday's demonstrations in France gathered supporters and family members in Paris, Saint-Cere, Nimes, Nantes and Orleans.
"One thousand days is unbearable, but hope remains to find them alive," Larribe's nephew Aurelien Pigeat said.
In April, President Francois Hollande announced France would not buckle under pressure to pay ransom for hostages, saying that by applying discreet measures in such situations, France could handle them more efficiently.