France deploying 'all measures' to find hostages
Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Monday that "all measures are being deployed" to rescue French hostages kidnapped in Niger, as Paris sent dozens of specialised military personnel to the desert zone.
"My thoughts are with our compatriots kidnapped in Niger, I share their families' anguish, and all measures are being deployed to free them as quickly as possible," Fillon's office quoted him as saying.
Although Fillon did not refer directly to the operation, officials said France has dispatched an 80-strong team of military personnel to Niger in a bid to locate the seven hostages kidnapped by suspected Al-Qaeda militants.
The group is working in five teams using a long-range reconnaissance plane and a specially modified Mirage jet with detection equipment to scour the desert for the hostage-takers' trail.
The seven, including five French nationals, were kidnapped on Thursday from their homes in Arlit in northern Niger by suspected Al Qaeda-linked gunmen, or Tuareg bandits who may have planned to sell them on to the Islamists.
They are five French nationals, including a married couple, one Togolese and one Madagascan. Most worked for French companies involved in uranium mining in the Arlit region.
© 2010 AFP