NOUAKCHOTT: Gunmen in Algeria who are holding about 60 hostages at a gas plant, want to swap the American hostages for prisoners held in the United States including Pakistani Aafia Siddiqui, the ANI news agency quoted sources close to their leader as saying on Friday.
The abductors, who are also holding other Algerian and foreign hostages, have also demanded negotiations for an end to French intervention in Mali, the agency said, quoting sources close to Mohktar Belmokhtar.
Veteran fighter Belmokhtar, a one-eyed Algerian militant apparently with ties to al Qaeda, has claimed responsibility for launching Wednesday's attack.
ANI said Belmokhtar, in a video that would be distributed to the media, proposed proposed that "France and Algeria negotiate an end to the war being waged by France in Azawad" (northern Mali).
He also proposed "exchanging American hostages held by his group (the 'Signatories in Blood')" for Egyptian Omar Abdul Rahman and Pakistani Aafia Siddiqui, who are jailed in the United States on charges of terrorist links.
Abdul Rahman, the spiritual leader of the radical Jamaa Islamiya group, was convicted in 1995 for his role in a 1993 attack on the World Trade Centre in New York City, in which six people were killed.
He is serving a life sentence for the attack in which hundreds more people were injured when a truck bomb was detonated in the building's garage.
Abdul Rahman, known as the "blind sheikh," was also convicted of plotting to bomb other New York targets including the United Nations and a plan to assassinate ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
Mubarak's successor, Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, said earlier this month he will urge US President Barack Obama to free Abdul Rahman, during a visit he is due to make to the United States later before the end of March.
Siddiqui, a US-educated neuroscientist, is an al Qaeda-linked would-be extremist who tried to murder American officers on July 18, 2008, after she was detained by security services in Afghanistan.
The abductors are believed to have at least four American nationals in their custody.
There were over 710 people working on the plant when it came under attack from militants. However, action by Algerian special forces managed to free 650 of those including 573 Algerians and 100 of the 132 foreigners who work at the plant. The fate of the rest was unknown, but militants claim they still have hostages.
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