Mali vows to 'get tough' on Qaeda hostage killers

Mali authorities vowed tough action Thursday against Al-Qaeda affiliates in north Africa who killed a British kidnap victim, as the African Union urged an immediate release for his Swiss companion.

"The merciless struggle we are going to wage against all terrorist groups will be a long one," said a Malian interior ministry source. "We are fed up. We must all rise up to fight against these faithless and lawless killers."

The official said cross-border patrols in conjunction with security personnel from neighbouring states, especially along the Algerian frontier, would be stepped up.

The hardened stance was accompanied by an admission that Malian authorities felt "trapped" by the insistence of states, six of whose nationals were originally kidnapped -- Britain, Canada, Germany and Switzerland.

"From now on, there is a choice to be made -- and for us, it's clear," the official said of Mali's strategy, adding that Bamako was in "advanced discussions" with Algeria, Canada, France, the US and others on policing the region.

Two Canadian diplomats and two European women tourists seized in December and January by Islamic extremists in the Sahel -- bordering the Sahara desert -- were released in April and flown to the Malian capital Bamako.

But then this week, news emerged that the fifth, British hostage, Edwin Dyer, had been killed -- sharply increasing the urgency for diplomatic and other efforts to release Swiss national Werner Greiner.

AU leader Jean Ping earlier Thursday said he "received with profound shock and utter dismay the news that a British hostage, Mr Edwin Dyer, might have been murdered by an Al-Qaeda cell in Mali," according to an AU statement.

Condemning the violence of the Al-Qaeda cell "and any terrorist actions in other parts of the world," the AU again pledged to work with the international community to fight the threat.

"The Chairperson also uses this opportunity to appeal to those still holding a Swiss hostage in Mali not to harm him and to release him immediately," the statement added.

Ping offered his condolences to Dyer's family and praised the efforts of the people and the government of Mali in their bid to secure the release of the hostages held there.

According to SITE Intelligence, a US-based monitoring group, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb AQIM posted an online statement saying it killed Briton Edwin Dyer on May 31 in revenge for the detention of a radical cleric.

The authorities in Mali on Wednesday named an Islamist leader they said was behind the execution of a British hostage, thought to be the first by Al-Qaeda affiliates in north Africa.

People look at the moon at the Temple of Hercules at the Citadel in Amman. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed