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February 3, 2023

Crisis cell at MAE in case of Romanian kidnapped by Jihad members

The situation of the Romanian man kidnapped in Burkina Faso is managed by the crisis cell at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, due to transmit all public announcements, Prime Minister Victor Ponta declared on Tuesday morning, mentioning that President Iohannis had been announced as well. “It is a special situation and there is a crisis cell”, Ponta declared. Asked by journalists whether he was willing to negotiate the release of the hostage, Ponta declared: “I want the crisis cell to conduct the communication, in order not to give strange answers to strange questions.”


Foreign Ministry checking veracity of message


The inter-institutional crisis task force that handles the case of the Romanian citizen abducted in Burkina Faso is analyzing press reports about an audio message related to the abductee, according to the Romanian Foreign Ministry.

“The competent Romanian authorities represented in the inter-institutional crisis task force summoned by the Foreign Ministry after the abduction are carrying out urgent checks on the veracity of the information presented in the news, the audio message included. The inter-institutional task force (that includes representatives of the Romanian Intelligence Service, the Foreign Intelligence Service, the Defence Ministry and the Presidential Administration) are working round the clock to manage the situation,” says the Foreign Ministry.

“Each institution is acting with the specific tools and methods as per the competencies established through the methodology approved by Romania’s Supreme Defence Council. The inter-institutional crisis task force is working closely with Romania’s international partners,” reads the release.

Foreign Affairs Minister Bogdan Aurescu, presently in Brussels, at the reunion of the European Council Committee of Ministers, will make an emergency return to the country on Tuesday, due to the information published by the press about the Romanian Iulian Ghergut, kidnapped in April, in Burkina Faso, diplomatic sources declared.

In an audio message aired on Monday by the Mauritanian agency Al-Akhbar, the Jihadi group Salafista din Sahel Al-Mourabitoune announced they are holding the Romanian kidnapped in Burkina Faso in April this year and “advise the Romanian Government to grant serious attention to the negotiations destined to release the hostage”, VOA reported. “The Romanian Government will bear full responsible of the fate of the  hostage, whether they delay taking advantage of the chance they were granted to release their citizen”, the message added, apparently referring to the absence of negotiations with Bucharest.

The message was apparently coming from the one who bills himself as the new leader of the group, a rival of Algerian commander Mokhtar Belmokhtar, AFP reports. Claiming to speak on behalf of Adnan Abou Walid Sahraoui, emir of Al-Mourabitoun, the author of this Arabic record “calls on the Romanian government to give serious attention to negotiations for the release of the hostage held by the group.”

On the other hand, Etienne Traore, interim president of the Party for Democracy and Socialism / Constructors Party (PDS/Metba) in Burkina Faso, recently declared for the daily paper Le Pays: “I think there are other abductions to come. I suspect Moustafa Ould Chafi, who commands Tuareg networks, of attempting to destabilize the situation in Burkina Faso in order to help his friend, (former president) Blaise Compaore, who now counts on a politics of stigmatization.”

The Romanian, a security guard at a Tambao manganese mine in northern Burkina Faso, near the border with Niger and Mali, was kidnapped on April 4 by armed men wearing turbans, but no credible claim for the kidnapping has been made so far. The Romanian security guard was abducted by five armed persons who attacked a convoy in a patrol mission nearby the manganese mine in Tambao. The mine, located in the Oudalan province, close to the borders with Mali and Niger, is exploited by Pan African Minerals, a subsidiary of Timis Corporation, the company of Romanian businessman Frank Timis. During the attack, a gendarme and a driver were injured.


Gabriel Oprea demanded the help of Interpol


Internal Affairs Minister Gabriel Oprea announced on Tuesday that he has discussed with the Secretary General of Interpol, Jurgen Stock, about the case of the Romanian man kidnapped in Burkina Faso, in order to gain an intelligence exchange, considering that Interpol has consistent experience on terrorist issues.

“I have discussed today with Mr. Secretary General of Interpol about the case of the Romanian citizen kidnapped in Burkina Faso and about the evolution of this situation. We are interested to have an exchange of intelligence in this case, considering the experience of this organization related to terrorist issues”, Vice-Prime Minister for National Security and Internal Affairs Minister Gabriel Oprea declared.

The Vice-Prime Minister also added that a crisis cell had been created at the level of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as early as April, and this crisis cell analyzes all new information related to this case. The crisis cell includes experts by MAE, the Romanian Intelligence Service, the Foreign Intelligence Service, the Ministry of National Defence and the Presidential Administration.


Iohannis: “I have been in permanent contact with the MAE crisis cell”


President Klaus Iohannis declared on Monday evening, related to the lack of reaction in the case of the Romanian citizen abducted in Burkina Faso, that the President “must have the courage not to reveal their opinion on every topic” and that he had been in permanent contact with the Foreign Affairs Minister and the crisis cell.

“If you wish to approach the unfortunate case of the kidnapped Romanian, I can tell you that I have been in daily contact either with the Foreign Affairs Minister, or with the crisis cell that was founded immediately, according to applicable laws. I do not have a appear in public, with a microphone, and tell these people what to do, because they know their jobs quite well. These procedures are quite complicated, but they are regulated very accurately. I do not think that I have to comment each event personally”. the President declared at the end of discussions with Parliament parties regarding recent criticisms on his lack of reaction after the event that involved the Romanian citizen.


Traian Basescu: “I warn you that terrorist procedures will increase”


Ex-President Traian Basescu stated that Victor Ponta or Klaus Iohannis should lead the operations for the recovery of the Romanian man abducted in Burkina Faso, so that decisions would be politically assumed, as secret services have a few restrictions imposed by the law. Basescu reminded on Tuesday that “over a month” has passed since the moment of kidnapping and now, “there is a necessity of operations conducted by the President or the Prime Minister.”

“I think that there is a misunderstanding related to what the terrorist crime of abducting a citizen means. When I joined the attempts to recover the journalists in Iraq, I considered it as an assault to national security, as an aggression aimed at Romania. You cannot treat it any other way, when one of your citizens is kidnapped. I must mention that terrorist procedures will increase and, if the Romanian state will seem weak, the will have many terrorist attacks and abductions. This is what the terrorist groups are seeking: weak states”, Traian Basescu declared for B1 TV.

Asked whether he considered that an emergency meeting of CSAT needed to be summoned, the ex-President hinted that such thing was not necessary.

“These things are solved in a much smaller circle, having a President at the end of the table and security structures, some of which do not belong to CSAT: the Intelligence Department of the Army, SRI, SIE, DGIPI”, the former Head of the State explained.

Basescu further declared that political engagement is necessary. If you read Romanian laws, you will find out that you must not interfere, especially in the case of a Romanian citizen kidnapped abroad. Political engagement is necessary because security structures are able to act when they have their backs covered politically”, the former President outlined.


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