AQMI, the branch of Al Qaeda operating in the Islamic Maghreb, confirmed in a written statement today that it was indeed holding hostage the three Spanish aid workers kidnapped in Mauritania on November 19th and said that they were in good health.
"The hostages are in good health and being treated in accordance with Islamic law" read the statement, which was released to all the usual Islamic groups that tend to publish audio and video messages from the different branches of Al Qaeda.
Albert Vilalta, Roque Pascual and Alicia Gámez were captured while travelling with the charity Barcelona Acciķ Solidaria to distribute humanitarian aid in Mauritania, Senegal and Gambia.
Today's statement also confirmed that the group is holding a 61 year old French aid worker, Pierra Camatte, who has kidnapped from a hotel in Menaka, some 1,500km north east of Bamako, the capital of Mali.
According to AQMI, the 'mujahidin' (radical Islamic fighters) responible for carrying out the kidnaps are "back in their security bases" but the group did not reveal their location.
As was the case yesterday, today's message reiterated that the Spanish and French governments would soon be informed of the "legitimate demands of the mujahidin" and warned that the hostages' safety depended on the safety of their "Moslem brothers".
The statement concluded with the usual calls to Holy war and demands for the release of all their colleagues currently imprisoned in the west.
AQMI has admitted responsibility for a number of kidnaps over recent months, but are now operating more in the desert areas of Mali, having been expelled from areas close to the Mediterranean coast thanks to Algeria's anti-terrorist campaign.