Sarkozy 'worried' about French hostages in Mali

16th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Tuesday he was "worried" about French hostages kidnapped in Niger and held by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb but said threats would not change French policy.

"I must say, I'm especially worried about our hostages in Mali. They were taken hostage by a gang belonging to AQIM", Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Sarkozy said in a television interview.

Seven hostages -- five French nationals, a Togolese and a Madagascan -- were seized in a Niger uranium-mining town on the night of September 15 to September 16.

They are believed by intelligence agents in countries concerned to be held in an area of the Sahara desert in neighbouring Mali.

On September 30, Al-Qaeda's North African branch posted a photograph and audio recordings of the seven hostages, who were mostly working for the French nuclear group Areva and its subcontractors.

The French government has indicated it is willing to talk to the kidnappers, but has received no contact from the group.

Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has told France to treat the kidnapping as a warning and that a ban on the wearing of the Islamic veil in public places in France justified violence against its citizens.

© 2010 AFP

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