The leader of a jihadist group in the Sahara that pledged allegiance to Islamic State five days ago announced that his organization is holding a Romanian hostage.
In a statement published on a jihadist website, Abu Walid al-Sahraoui, the head of Al Mourabitoun, made the odd claim that "the Romanian government will be fully responsible for the fate of its hostage if it delays in seizing the opportunity offered to it to release its citizen." The hostage, whose name was not released, was abducted on April 4 from a manganese mine in Burkina Faso, where he was a security guard. Witnesses told local media that they saw him being driven in the direction of Mali's desert.
Al-Sahraoui was once a member of al Qaeda's North African branch, The New York Times reports, and then split off to start his own cell, Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, or Mujao. In 2012, Mujao seized control of parts of northern Mali, but was pushed back in 2013 during a military operation led by French troops. Later that year, Mujao joined forces with other jihadist groups in the region to form Al Mourabitoun.