Al-Qaeda claims French kidnappings

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claims the abduction of five French citizens in Niger.

    The kidnapped French nationals worked for uranium mining companies in Niger [AFP]

    Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has claimed the abduction of five French nationals in Niger and said that it will make demands to France regarding them.

    "In announcing our claim for this operation, we inform the French government that the mujahedeen will later transmit their legitimate demands," a voice claiming to be AQIM spokesman Salah Abi Mohammed said in an audio message released on Tuesday.

    "We also warn [the French government] against any sort of stupidity," he added, in reference to a possible military operation, as French military planes patrolled the desert on Tuesday in an effort to locate the group.

    The statement, which did not mention the two African hostages, added that Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, an Algerian, led the kidnap operation.

    "Following the promise of our emir, Abou Moussab [Algerian Abdelmalek Droukdel], a group of heroic mujahedeen last Wednesday, under the command of Sheikh Abou Zeid, succeeded in penetrating the French mining site at Arlit in Niger," the message said.

    France confirms claims

    France has authenticated the claim, and says it has good reason to believe the hostages are alive.

    "We are in a position to confirm the authenticity of the claim," Romain Nadal, a French foreign ministry spokesman said on Wednesday.

    "We have not received proof of life, but we have good reasons to believe the hostages are alive."

    He said he was not aware of any demands from the hostage takers.

    AQIM, which is active in the Sahara and the arid Sahel region, has been increasingly targeting French interests.

    The claim came hours after Niger's government spokesman, Mahamane Laouali Dan Dah, said the hostages - also including a citizen of Togo and another from Madagascar - were still alive.

    He did not say what that information was based on.

    All seven hostages had worked at a huge uranium mine in northern Niger run by French state-owned nuclear power giant Areva. They were abducted by armed men last Thursday.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Explore how your country voted on global issues since 1946, as the world gears up for the 74th UN General Assembly.

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    We dialled more than 35,000 random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan.

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.