French soldiers to train Burkinabe forces in anti-terrorism
French troops have arrived in Burkina Faso to train local forces in anti-terrorism tactics, a high-ranked Burkinabe officer said Thursday, denying any links to the hostage crisis in Niger.
"We have the French military who arrived for a mission...to train our elements in the fight against terrorism," the officer said, under anonymity.
He said it was merely coincidental that the training will take place just a week after seven employees from French nuclear group Areva were kidnapped and held hostage by an Al-Qaeda-linked group.
This form of military cooperation between both countries is part of "classic training operations of our men", the officer said, but refused to reveal for security reasons how many French troops are involved.
Seven employees, including five French, a Togolese and a Madagascan, were kidnapped on September 16 from their home in Arlit, in the north of Niger and taken to a remote location in Mali.
A North African Al-Qaeda unit claimed the kidnapping and warned Paris Thursday not to launch a military intervention.
France has also deployed some 80 soldiers to Niger capital Niamey where they are conducting reconnaissance flights to locate the hostages.
The officer said Ouagadougou was willing to open up its aerial space to France, if needed.
© 2010 AFP