Al-Qaeda blames France for hostage deadlock

Updated 27 December 2012
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Al-Qaeda blames France for hostage deadlock

PARIS: A leader of Al-Qaeda's North African arm, AQIM, has accused France of failing to engage in negotiations to release French hostages the group is holding in the Sahel.
In a four-minute video message carried by regional news website Sahara Media, Abdel Hamid Abu Zeid said four hostages seized in Niger two years ago were alive and said Paris had not taken up AQIM's invitation to negotiate their release.
"About a year ago we alerted France to our willingness to negotiate and since then we have been waiting for a response," Abu Zeid said in a French transcript provided by Sahara Media, viewed as a reliable news portal with strong militant contacts.
The statement appeared to be in response to a Dec. 8 message from the brother of one of the hostages who said he did not understand why the situation appeared to be deadlocked.
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said that Paris is working "discreetly" to try to secure the hostages' release.
AQIM, which operates across the vast Sahara desert and with its allies controls the northern two-thirds of Mali, is holding four Frenchmen seized in a Niger mining town in 2010 and two others kidnapped in northeast Mali in late 2011.
A seventh Frenchman was kidnapped by a separate rebel group, MUJWA, in southwest Mali in November.
AQIM threatened in September to start killing hostages if Paris mounted a military intervention in northern Mali.
Despite that risk, Paris has been a vocal supporter of plans for an international operation to try to wrest back the territory from the rebels' control. Western leaders are concerned the area could become a platform for militant attacks.
The UN Security Council this month authorized a French-drafted resolution for the deployment of an African-led force to retrain Mali's defeated army and ultimately support such an operation.
The four AQIM hostages were working for French nuclear group Areva and Sogea-Satom, a subsidiary of construction group Vinci, in the uranium mining town of Arlit in Niger.


Man killed in random knife attack at California steakhouse

Updated 22 April 2018
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Man killed in random knife attack at California steakhouse

  • The victim was dining with his family when the suspect came and stabbed him without warning
  • Police say suspect is a felon who had been convicted for burglary and unlawful sexual intercourse since the 1990s

LOS ANGELES: A homeless man who randomly stabbed a patron in a crowded Southern California restaurant to death as he was holding his daughter was reported just a few hours earlier for disruptive behavior, but police ultimately determined he was not a threat, authorities said Saturday.
Jamal Jackson, 49, is facing a first-degree murder charge in the death of 35-year-old Anthony Mele. He was being held in Ventura County jail on a $1.5 million bail. It was unclear if Jackson, who is also a convicted felon, had an attorney to speak on his behalf.
Mele and his wife were eating dinner with their 5-year-old daughter Wednesday at Aloha Steakhouse in the seaside city of Ventura. The girl was sitting on her father’s lap when prosecutors say Jackson walked up and stabbed Mele in the neck.
Prosecutor Richard Simon said customers and a restaurant employee followed Jackson out of the restaurant, even though he still had the knife. They kept track of him until Ventura police arrived and arrested him.
Mele was taken to a hospital and died Thursday after being taken off life support.
“It’s horrible,” Simon said. “You don’t think you’re going to be killed when you go out to dinner at a nice restaurant with your family and you didn’t do anything.”
Simon said the two men had not interacted before the attack.
“He was just sitting there with his daughter in his lap,” Simon said. “You’re not supposed to die that way.”
Mele’s loved ones started a GoFundMe page to help raise money for a funeral and to support his wife and daughter.
Mele’s Facebook page was filled with photos of his daughter and said he was a manager at an AT&T store.
Police confirmed that a bystander reported a man — who turned out to be Jackson — for disruptive behavior several hours before the stabbing.
According to the bystander, a man was yelling on the promenade not far from the beachside restaurant about three hours before the attack.
Patrol officers were out on other calls so command center staff monitored the man via a pier security camera system for more than 20 minutes before deciding he didn’t seem to be a threat, police said.
Police are asking anyone who spoke with Jackson during that time to contact investigators in the city 70 miles (113 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles.
Jackson also had half a dozen contacts with police in Ventura since the beginning of the year, including an arrest after a physical fight at a park, said Commander Tom Higgins.
He was also stopped on March 31 after a passer-by reported he was brandishing a knife. Police searched his bag and found a knife but there was no victim so no charge was filed, Higgins said.
Jackson has a lengthy rap sheet including charges in San Bernardino County, Higgins said, as well as convictions for burglary and unlawful sexual intercourse dating back to the 1990s.
The killing prompted the Ventura City Council to increase police patrols in the area and add staff members to monitor security cameras, among other measures.
“We are extremely disheartened and infuriated by this criminal attack,” Mayor Neal Andrews said in a statement. “We will not tolerate this in our community. Nothing is more important than the safety of our visitors, residents and businesses.”
If convicted, Jackson faces up to 55 years in prison.