A new French hostage mystery
French hostage begs to be saved
Kidnapped French journalist Florence Aubenas, seized in Baghdad more than seven weeks ago, made a desperate appeal for help in a videotape released by insurgents last night.
It is thought to be the first tape of Aubenas to be released and would be the first confirmation the 43-year-old reporter is alive since her abduction on January 5.
. . .
On the tape, she makes an appeal to a French MP.
“This is urgent now. Help me! I ask especially Mr Didier Julia, the French deputy. Please Mr Julia. Help me! It’s urgent. Mr Julia, help me!”
Mr Julia, an outspoken deputy from President Jacques Chirac’s governing party, caused an uproar in September when he barged in, mediating for the release of the then kidnapped French journalists Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot.
The two men were released in December after four months of captivity.
Mr Julia was accused by French authorities of meddling in the Government’s attempts to release the two men, almost sabotaging it. The maverick deputy defended his interference, saying he had hoped his contacts in the Middle East would enable him to make progress where, he claimed, the French Government has failed.
State prosecutors opened an investigation into suspected wrongdoing by Mr Julia and two associates on suspicions they shared intelligence with a foreign power or group.
On October 4 last year I posted on the Julia fiasco:
According to this France2 report, Didier Julia, a member of the UMP (Chirac’s party) went to Syria to negotiate their release, after several other initiatives that included French Muslim leaders had failed. Laurent Gbagbo, the president of Côte d’Ivoire, had lent his private aircraft to him to fly to Syrian capital. Julia confirmed rumors that he and his collaborator Philippe Brett had been in Damascus. Brett apparently then went to meet with the hostage takers, and, when a highly-publicized press conference (where the hostages were to be released) started, Brett didn’t show up. Instead, Brett phoned saying he was with the hostages but “there was a delay”. No hostages — or Brett — at all.
Julia now confirms that Philippe Brett was within “25 mètres” of Christian Chesnot and George Malbrunot. Not one to miss blaming the Americans for anything, Julia says that “Friday he realized he had failed, which was caused by the US army preventing the convoy transporting Chesnot and Malbrunot from arriving to Syria”.
By following day, Oct. 5, the France2 news report was stating (emphasis mine),
According to “Radio France internationale” (RFI) and the “Journal du dimanche” (JDD), Julia’s promised rescue operation was a hoax. Information agencies could have indeed established that Philippe Brett, Julia’s intermediary who had announced Friday to be in Iraq at the side of the hostages, was actually in the suburbs of Damascus.
According to the JDD, French experts estimate that Didier Julia and his group are handled by Syria, made furious by the French support for the vote of the resolution 1559 condemning the Syrian presence to Lebanon. Damascus, which would have influence on the kidnappers, would like to force Paris to agree to some of its conditions in order to obtain a release of the two journalists.
UN Security Resolution 1559 ordered the withdrawal of foreign troops from Lebanese territory. It was co-sponsored by the USA and France at the UN Security Council.
This is the first time anyone has heard from Florence Aubenas after her kidnapping.
Is this a second attempt by Syria to, as the JDD article stated last year when analyzing the prior kidnapping, “force Paris to agree to some of its conditions in order to obtain a release”? Considering the Didier Julia connection to Syria, and how Ms Aubenas is pleading for his help, it’s not far-fetched to assume it is.
As with the Chesnot/Malbrunot case, no word as to whether there’s money involved.
Update Welcome Chrenkoff readers! Update on this story here
(Also posted at Blogger News Network)