Islamic militants said Sunday they have executed an Algerian diplomat who was kidnapped during their takeover of northern Mali, according to a statement published by a Mauritanian news agency.
Taher Touati, the Algerian vice-consul “was executed this morning (Sunday) at dawn” read the statement from the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) published by online news agency ANI, known for carrying reliable information on extremist groups in the region.
Touti was among seven diplomats abducted in April after the Algerian consulate in Gao, northern Mali, was attacked by militant groups, some of which are accused of having links to al-Qaeda.
MUJAO released a video last week showing Touati pleading to the Algerian government to save his life. His family also called on his abductors to release him out of mercy due to his illness.
“The Algerian government must take complete responsibility for the consequences of its stubbornness and the misguided and irresponsible decisions of its president and its generals,” read the statement.
MUJAO had on August 24 given an ultimatum to Algeria, threatening to kill the hostage after Algiers rejected its demands for the release of Islamist prisoners in a hostage swap. Three of the hostages were freed in July.
“The execution of the diplomat came after the expiry of an ultimatum given to the Algerian government,” said the statement.
“Algerian negotiators refused to agree on a deal to release the hostages at the last minute,” it added.
Algerian authorities have said they are verifying the reports of the diplomat's execution.
Sunday’s statement “is currently the focus of the necessary verification to ensure its authenticity,” the Algerian foreign ministry said in a statement released by the official APS news agency.
“Contact has not been broken” with the kidnappers, it added.
MUJAO, one of several Al Qaeda-linked groups which have been in control of the north for five months.