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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 January, 2005, 14:05 GMT
Frenchmen told of Iraq 'holy war'
Christian Chesnot (L) and Georges Malbrunot speaking to the BBC
The journalists say they "tried to understand the logic of resistance"
The two French journalists released by kidnappers in Iraq last month have told the BBC that their captors supported the goals of Osama Bin Laden.

"We realised they had a jihadist [Islamic holy war] agenda," said one of the ex-hostages, Georges Malbrunot.

Speaking on the BBC's Hardtalk programme, he said one gunman had told him: "We have to bring the fight to Europe... we're in 60 countries now".

They were held by a group called the Islamic Army in Iraq (IAI).


Mr Malbrunot's colleague, journalist Christian Chesnot, said one of the "jihadists" had told them that the IAI was "very close" to al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

There was a "division of the work" between the IAI and other insurgent groups, including that led by Islamic militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the militant was quoted as saying. Zarqawi's al-Qaeda-linked group has claimed responsibility for many bombings and hostage killings in Iraq.
It would be crazy for us to go back to Iraq
Georges Malbrunot

"When Zarqawi is in danger we send some troops [to help him]," the militant continued, adding that the IAI's aim was to overthrow the rulers of Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Mr Chesnot, 37, and Mr Malbrunot, 41, were abducted in August while driving to the city of Najaf with their Syrian driver, Mohammed al-Jundi, who was later found during the US-led assault on Falluja.

The former hostages said they believed their French nationality had saved their lives.

"You are a political card," they were told.

When they asked the kidnappers how they treated US or British hostages they were told: "They are dogs, we kill them".

Mr Malbrunot said he thought the kidnappers were Iraqis, but "some, they told us, were from Yemen, Saudi Arabia".

'Deal' suspicions

The former hostages said the kidnappers were happy that US troops were in Afghanistan and Iraq because that gave the jihadists an opportunity to fight them.

The French journalists said they had both feared for their lives at times.

French officials have denied that a ransom was paid.

Mr Malbrunot said simply "we guess there was a deal".

But he admitted France had not made concessions on three issues that the kidnappers had voiced opposition to: the ban on Muslim headscarves in French schools, France's military contingent in Afghanistan and France's position on Darfur.

Explaining how they had survived their ordeal, Mr Chesnot said it had been "extremely helpful to be together".

"We spoke Arabic with the kidnappers," he added, saying that that had improved communication.

French journalists talk of captivity in Iraq


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