French hostages in Mali: a timeline
Key events in the crisis over hostages taken by an Islamic extremist group in west Africa's arid Sahel region:
- September 16, 2010: Seven people working for French firms - five French nationals, a Togolese and a Madagascan - are abducted from Arlit in northern Niger, the centre of a big uranium mining operation.
- September 20: The Niger government confirms reports that the hostages have been taken across the border into Mali.
- September 21: A group identifying itself as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claims the kidnappings.
- September 30: The group posts on the Internet a photo of the seven hostages along with an audio recording.
- November 19: AQIM demands that France pull its forces out of Afghanistan as a condition for the hostages' release, and that it negotiate directly with Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. France refuses.
- February 24, 2011: A French woman, the Togolese and Madagascan are freed on Niger's territory, leaving four male French hostages in captivity.
- April 27: AQIM releases a video apparently showing the four remaining hostages. The group again urges France to pull its troops out of Afghanistan.
© 2011 AFP