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Al Qaeda group says it kidnapped Italian man, wife

Photograph shows a bearded man purported to be Italian Cicala Sergio.
Photograph shows a bearded man purported to be Italian Cicala Sergio.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The group, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, says man is Cicala Sergio
  • It was unclear what the group's demands were
  • In June the group executed a British man after UK refused to release Abu Qatada
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(CNN) -- Al Qaeda's north African wing has released an audio message from an Italian man whom it says it has kidnapped and has set a 25-day deadline for the Italian government to meet its demands.

The message was accompanied by a still photograph, posted on Islamist Web sites, showing a bearded man kneeling in front of a group of six armed and masked men.

The group, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, says the man is Cicala Sergio.

The group says it has been holding the man and his wife for two months. The audio message, dated February 24, urges the Italian government to meet the group's demands in 25 days -- although it was unclear what those demands are.

"If you want to guarantee the safety of these two Italian captives, you need to pressure your government and urge them to respond to the legitimate demands," the statement said.

CNN could not immediately determine the authenticity of the message.

In June, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb executed a British man after the British government did not give in to its demand to release Abu Qatada, a Jordanian considered to be al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe.

The group began life as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat with aspirations to overthrow the Algerian government.

Around 2004, it joined forces with al Qaeda and extended its reach across North and West Africa.

CNN's Saad Abedine contributed to this report.

 
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