French official 'almost certain' Qaeda behind kidnappings
French Defense Minister Herve Morin said Saturday he was "almost certain" that Al-Qaeda was responsible for the kidnapping of five French nationals and two others in Niger.
Speaking by video conference to a group in Canada after cutting short a visit to the country, Morin said he needed to return to France to keep up with developments in the hostage drama in Africa.
"Our five compatriots have been taken hostage by Al-Qaeda, it's almost certain," he said.
His comments came after kidnappers abducted five French nationals, a Togolese and a Madagascan on Thursday in a uranium mining region of the west African country of Niger that is prey to Al-Qaeda militants.
French officials said the French citizens employed by energy firm Areva and Satom, a unit of the construction giant Vinci.
Areva operates a major uranium mining operation in the remote Arlit region, which is prey to roving gangs of Tuareg rebels, armed bandits and Islamist militants linked to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Last month France declared it was "at war" with Al-Qaeda after the murder of a previous French hostage, 78-year-old Michel Germaneau, who was abducted in Niger in April and taken across the desert to a militant camp in Mali.
© 2010 AFP