A video released by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb shows four French hostages apparently held by the group in Niger begging French President Nicolas Sarkozy to withdraw French troops from Afghanistan.
"We beg you, President Sarkozy, to respond positively to the request of al Qaeda to withdraw French troops from Afghanistan, because the French really have no reason to be in the war in Afghanistan," said hostage Pierre Legrand, 25, on the video, which was released Tuesday.
The other three hostages -- Daniel Larribe, Thierry Dol and Marc Furrer -- all read essentially the same statement, one after the other. They were all were seated on the ground, with armed men behind them.
The French government is in the process of authenticating the video, government spokesman Pierre Baroin said Wednesday, and is especially interested in determining when it was recorded. The hostages gave the dates of April 11, 12, and 13 as they read their statements.
"For the moment, what I can tell you is that we need to appraise this video and especially to make sure that this video shows that our hostages are still alive," said France's European Affairs Minister Laurent Wauquiez in a televised interview. "Secondly, we are doing everything, I say everything, so that our hostages are freed. I have nothing else to say on this matter."
When asked how the government might respond, Wauquiez stressed that "it is not hostage-takers who dictate the foreign policy of France."
The video, which lasts for 3 minutes and 36 seconds, begins with images of fighters in a desert area and music. The hostages are shown separately in photographs, with an audio recording of their voices.
The men were part of a group of seven people who were abducted on September 16 in
Arlit, a city in central Niger. Three people were released in February, including Daniel Larribe's wife, Francoise, who was ill, as well as Jean-Claude Rakotorilalao of Madagascar and Alex Awando from Togo.