French confirms citizen kidnapped in Niger
France confirmed on Monday that one of its citizens had been kidnapped in Niger, four days after local authorities had blamed an Al-Qaeda-linked group for his disappearance.
Foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said the kidnapping had taken place in a so-called "Red Zone" on the southern rim of the Sahara desert that tourists are strongly advised to avoid because of the risk of terrorism.
Valero did not identify the victim, but sources close to the investigation said he was a male tourist aged in his seventies.
The spokesman said French authorities had mobilised diplomatic crisis response teams in Paris and abroad to seek his safe release.
On Thursday last week, officials in the North African country of Niger, a former French colony and major uranium exporter in the arid Sahel region, said a Frenchman and his Algerian driver had been seized by armed men.
"The men of Taleb Abdoulkrim were responsible," a security source told AFP.
Taleb Abdoulkrim is the nickname of the head of a extremist group operating in the region. It claims to be close to Al-Qaeda, the international Islamist network headed by Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden.
Taleb Abdoulkrim has not previously been blamed for any kidnappings, but Qaeda-affiliated groups have been involved in several similar hostage takings in other parts of the North African desert region.
© 2010 AFP