France says Niger hostage photo 'encouraging sign'

30th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

A photograph of seven people taken hostage two weeks ago in Niger by Al-Qaeda, among them five French nationals, is "an encouraging sign" the French foreign ministry said Thursday.

"This photograph has been authenticated. Even if we don't know when it was taken, it's an encouraging sign in as much as it shows all the hostages alive," a ministry statement said.

"State services are fully mobilised and doing all they can to free them. We are in constant liaison with their families," it said.

The photo broadcast by the Qatari satellite news channel Al-Jazeera showed all seven -- the French, a Togolese and a Madagascan -- seated in the sand with armed men behind them.

Al-Jazeera said it also had an audio tape of four of the French being interrogated about their marital status and the circumstances of their abduction by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Kidnapped on September 16, the hostages are being held in a mountain stronghold in northern Mali, according to a Malian source and French officials.

© 2010 AFP

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