A former US Ambassador Vicki Huddleston said a huge amount of ransom money that some of the European countries paid to free hostages ended up strengthening the Islamist groups who are now fighting in Mali.
She told BBC news that France paid $17 million to free hostages from a uranium mine in Niger in 2010. She also mentioned that other European countries, including Germany, were part of the ransom deal amounting to nearly $90 million.
According to Huddleston, the hostages kidnapped at the Niger mine in 2010 were released because the kidnappers got cash from European nations in exchange.
"All the European countries who paid ransoms have denied that they paid ransoms and you know perhaps they can deny it because it's gone indirectly through various channels in the Malian government."
France has always denied paying ransom to release the hostages. Although the French intervention in Mali succeeded in dismantling the rebels’ hold over major towns, the French army is struggling to keep up order in the country.
In a first suicide bombing attack since France began its military intervention on Jan. 11, a bomber blew himself at a checkpoint in the Northern town of Gao. A group owing allegiance to al-Qaida claimed the responsibility for the attack. French and Malian troops swiftly recaptured the northern towns of Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal, seized by al-Qaida-allied jihadist fighters last year.
According to reports, army infighting in the capital killed one person and injured at least five people when heavily-armed regular soldiers clashed with elite "Red Beret" paratroopers at their base in the capital Bamako.
The incident of army infighting does not augur well for Mali's future after French forces pull out. France's Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian wants to reduce France's military presence in Mali and hand over the responsibility of guarding Mali to an African contingent.
Presently, around 4,000 French troops, assisted by at least 1,000 Chadian troops, are in control of the northern key Malian towns, and are now moving into the mountains near the Algerian border, where the militants reportedly fled.