Ransoms ‘funded al-Qaeda’

France paid £10.7 million in hostage ransoms that ultimately funded the al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militants its troops are now fighting in Mali, the former American ambassador to Mali has claimed.

French officials, whose soldiers are pushing north into the territory where the missing captives are believed to be held, denied paying any ransoms.

Analysts have long believed the rebellion was funded largely by ransoms paid in recent years, and the comments yesterday from Vicki Huddleston appeared to strengthen that view.

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Ms Huddleston, who served as ambassador to Mali, and in the US state and defence departments, said the French money allowed al-Qaeda’s North Africa branch to flourish in Mali.