Al-Qaeda group claims abduction of French in Niger: Jazeera
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed the abduction of French citizens in Niger and said it will make demands to France regarding them, Al-Jazeera television reported on Tuesday.
"In announcing our claim for this operation, we inform the French government that the mujahedeen will later transmit their legitimate demands," AQIM spokesman Salah Abi Mohammed said in an audio tape played by Al-Jazeera.
"We also warn (the French government) against any sort of stupidity," he added, in reference to a possible military operation, as French military planes scouring the desert on Tuesday in an effort to locate the seven.
The statement also said Algerian Abdelhamid Abou Zeid had 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," Mohammed said.
"Despite strict military measures and numerous security barriers, the lions of Islam succeeded in evading all surveillance and kidnapped five French nuclear experts working for the Areva company," he added.
The Niger government had said earlier in the day that the kidnappers were "affiliated" to a group headed by Abou Zeid, AQIM's leader in northern Mali.
"We have not received any claims of responsibility but we have analysed the information that has reached us. We have also analysed the evidence that we have collected," spokesman Laouali Dan Dahhe said.
"Based on this evidence, we are in a position to say that the group which undertook this unacceptable kidnapping is a group affiliated to the group of Abou Zeid who is himself linked with ... Al Qaeda," he said.
The French, including a married couple, are among seven people kidnapped on Thursday. The other two victims are from Togo and Madagascar.
All seven work for French companies involved in uranium mining in the Arlit region of northern Niger.
© 2010 AFP