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Militant video purports to show westerners held in Mali World News | Sun Jul 2, 2017 | 7:34am EDT Militant video purports to show westerners held in Mali CAIRO Islamist militants operating in Mali released a video purporting to show six western hostages, ahead of a regional security summit in the West African country attended by France's president on Sunday. A narrator speaking in English said the 17-minute video showed hostages from South Africa, France, Colombia, Australia, Romania and Switzerland. The film bore the name of Al-Qaeda-affiliated militant group JNIM. Reuters was unable to verify the authenticity of the footage, or when or where it was taken. Romania's foreign ministry said the Romanian man from the video, Iulian Ghergut, was kidnapped from a mine in Burkina Faso in April 2015. France's Foreign Ministry declined to comment while the Swiss government said it was aware of the video and called for the release of its citizen. Islamist militant groups, some with links to al Qaeda, seized Mali’s desert north in 2012. A military intervention by former colonial power France drove them out of major cities a year later, but they continue to attack U.N. peacekeepers, Malian soldiers and civilian targets. The violence has spilled over into neighboring countries in West Africa’s arid Sahel region and Paris has deployed thousands of French troops to combat Islamists under a cross-border operation known as Barkhane. President Emmanuel Macron said France and its African partners must work together to wipe out Islamist militants, at the opening of the summit in Mali's capital Bamako.

Pier 1 reported its first-quarter loss narrowed to $3 million, or 4 cents a share, from $6 million, or 7 cents a share, a year earlier. Its results beat expectations.  Revenue fell to $409.5 million, less than expected, from $418.4 million.  The home decor retailer noted that the average number of stores operating in the quarter decreased approximately 1% compared to the year-ago period. Same-store sales were flat.   Analyst Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, commented that Pier's I's poor store performance is partially due to the fact that some of its stores are in locations that suffer from weak customer traffic. Another problem is the nature of the stores themselves, he said.  "While we recognize that improvements have been made to the layout, we maintain our view that the proposition is not as clear and compelling as it should or could be," Saunders said. "Pier 1 has some nice pieces, often at good price points, but these can be hard to find. Meanwhile, categories like furniture need more space if they are to be showcased properly. In short, stores are not terrible; but neither are they compelling enough to drive visitation." Online sales totaled $99.3 million, representing year-over-year growth of approximately 23%. E-commerce represented approximately 24% of net sales in quarter, as compared to approximately 19% last year.  Pier I opened one store and closed three during the quarter, ending with 1,106 stores as of May 27.

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