Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), al Qaeda’s official branch in North Africa, has released a new video featuring the last two Western hostages held in Mali. The two men, Swede Johan Gustofsson and South African Stephen McGowan, are shown pleading to their respective governments in the video produced by the Saharan branch of AQIM’s media wing, Al Andalus.
The video starts with an English-speaking jihadist in a black face mask exclaiming, “Welcome to the world’s largest prison.” The jihadist, referring to the Sahara desert, goes on to say that the desert is the “Mujahideen’s prison.” The jihadist then points out that the area is part of the “new territory controlled by the mujahideen.” It is unclear what area the captor is referring to, although it may be in central Mali.
The video was likely recorded in late 2014, as the jihadist in the video explains that the two were captured “three years ago.”
The two hostages are then seen having their handcuffs removed (above) before being taken to a wooded area where questioning commences between them and the jihadists. A narrator explains to the viewer that the two have been held for over 1000 days after being captured in Timbuktu in 2011 by a “special unit” of AQIM.
The two hostages are then seen asking a series of questions about the status of negotiations for their release. Their captor tells them that “The French government is impeding the negotiations.” The figure says that the French and Malian governments are trying to buy time so that they “do not have to submit to the demands of the mujahideen.”