CAIRO, Egypt — After a brief hiatus from Twitter, a North African Al Qaeda offshoot group returned to social media on Thursday, tweeting "glad tidings" to its followers.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, first created a now defunct account on March 16, but not before sending a few messages.
“Will Muslims be silent about what is happening to their brothers in faith in terms of killing, imprisonment and displacement, or will they retaliate,” one message read.
Now the group's media arm Andalus Media Foundation is back, and this time it sent tweets threatening to kill five French hostages, demanding France remove its military from Mali where it's currently fighting Islamic extremists.
A tweet just 13 hours old carried a link to an online statement that read:
"Your hostages sons that kept by Al Qaeda are still up to write this statement unharmed, except the spy Philip Vardon, which Al Qaeda announced killing him in revenge for killing our children and women in northern Mali, but we cannot guarantee their safety to infinity by aggression of your government and attacks of your army on the Mujahedeen sites."
Philip Vardon, whom Agence France-Presse calls a "business traveler," has not been confirmed as dead or alive.
Some of the Andalusia Foundation tweets have been deleted, but SITE Intelligence, a group that says it monitors "the global jihadist movement," reported the messages.
"Will the French people succeed in convincing (French President) Hollande to preserve the lives of the hostages?" the group asked in a tweet that has now been deleted.
AQIM joins the ranks of other jihadist or Al-Qaeda-linked organizations with their own Twitter accounts, including Somalia’s Al Shabab and Syria’s Jabhat Al Nusra.
The move is likely part of a fresh push to engage with international media as the group battles a French-led intervention against Islamist militants in Mali.
At least one of its senior leaders, Abdelhamid Abu Zeid, was confirmed killed in the fighting last month. Another affiliated militant, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who led the high-profile raid on an Algerian gas plant in January, is also reported killed in Mali but his death has not yet been confirmed.
The assault on the In Amenas gas field thrust AQIM back into the spotlight, and highlighted the group’s ability to carry out sophisticated, attacks across borders.
AQIM's Twitter account has more than 1,800 followers so far.