Sarkozy brands Niger kidnappers 'terrorists'
French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Sunday branded as "terrorists" the suspected Al-Qaeda-linked kidnappers believed to have killed two young Frenchmen in Niger.
"The whole nation condemns this barbarous deed, carried out by barbarous people, a deed of unheard of cowardice," Sarkozy said in a speech in the French Caribbean territory of Guadeloupe.
France will "never accept the diktat of terrorism and terrorists," he vowed.
"This odious crime will only strengthen France's determination to fight tirelessly against terrorism... Democracies will fight face to face against these barbarians from another age who want to terrorise the whole world."
The two victims, named by French officials as NGO worker Antoine de Leocour and his friend Vincent Delory, were seized in a Niamey restaurant on Friday, prompting Niger and French forces to chase the kidnappers.
The two hostages were found dead after fighting between these forces and the captors, prompting the French foreign ministry to warn of a heightened threat in the Sahel desert region spanning Niger, Mali, Mauritania and Algeria.
The hostage-takers have not been identified but the killing raised suspicions that they were linked to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which has claimed other abductions of French nationals in Niger.
The group in July killed a 78-year-old French hostage who was kidnapped there and is currently believed to be holding five French hostages, a Togolese and a Madagascan in Mali after they too were seized in Niger.
The Niamey abduction appeared the boldest in the recent spate of kidnappings and the first to strike in a capital city in the region.
"In light of the terrorist threat in the region, no place can be considered safe," the French foreign ministry said on its website.
© 2011 AFP