Seven employees of French firms kidnapped in Niger
French engineering firms Areva and Vinci said Thursday that seven of their employees had been kidnapped overnight in a uranium mining district in the West African state of Niger.
The French foreign ministry said it was investigating the report, as a spokesman for the government of Niger said that at least five people had been kidnapped overnight and that they were "mainly" French citizens.
"A certain number of measures have been taken, by police and the military, to quickly find the victims and the kidnappers without putting the hostages' lives in danger," Niger government spokesman Laouali Dan Dah said.
The nuclear group Areva said that two of its employees at its uranium mine in Arlit, northern Niger had been kidnapped overnight. The company did not identify the hostages, nor give their nationalities.
Construction firm Satom, a subsidiary of French engineering giant Vinci, said five of its employees had been kidnapped.
"We're doing everything we can to confirm this information," French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said.
According to a report on the website of the newspaper Le Monde citing President Nicolas Sarkozy's office, the seven include five Frenchmen.
Areva operates a major uranium mining operation in the Arlit region, which is remote and prey to roving gangs of Touareg 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 taken in Niger, 78-year-old Michel Germaneau.
© 2010 AFP