West Africa's Sahel: hostage timeline

16th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Six employees of French companies and the wife of one of them were abducted Thursday in the West African state of Niger, part of the mainly desert Sahel region.

A timeline of recent such incidents:

- February/March 2003: 32 European tourists are kidnapped in southern Algeria by the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), which later becomes a local affiliate of Al-Qaeda. Seventeen hostages are freed on May 13 by the Algerian army. A German woman dies and the 14 others are freed on August 18 in Mali.

- August 21, 2006: Some 20 tourists, mainly Italian, are kidnapped in Niger by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of the Sahara, a minority rebel group. Most are speedily released but two are held for 53 days before they are freed with Libyan help.

- December 24, 2007: Four French tourists are attacked and killed by an armed group in the southeast of Mauritania.

- February 22, 2008: Two Austrian tourists are kidnapped in Tunisia then transferred to northern Mali. The abduction is claimed by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), formerly the GSPC. They are freed in October.

- December 14, 2008: Two Canadian diplomats are kidnapped in Niger, claimed by AQIM. They are freed in Mali on April 21, 2009.

- January 22, 2009: Four European tourists (two Swiss, one German and one Briton) are kidnapped in the border area between Mali and Niger. On June 3, AQIM announces it has killed the British tourist. The three other hostages are freed in April and July.

- November 26, 2009: Frenchman Pierre Camatte is kidnapped in Mali by AQIM. He is freed in February 23, 2010 shortly after the release of four Islamists in Mali.

- November 29, 2009: Three Spanish aid workers, Alicia Gamez, Roque Pascual, and Albert Vilalta, are kidnapped northwest of Nouakchott in Mauritania. AQIM claims the abduction. Gamez is freed on March 10, 2010. On August 23 the release of the other two is announced.

- December 18, 2009: Italian retiree Sergio Cicala and his wife Philomene Kabouree, are kidnapped by AQIM in Mauritania. They are freed on April 16, 2010.

- April 19, 2010: Frenchman, Michel Germaneau, 78, and his Algerian driver are kidnapped in northern Niger. AQIM claims the abduction in May. On July 22, in a bid to free Germaneau, the Mauritanian army helped by France attacks an Al-Qaeda base in the desert and kills some "armed terrorists". Three days later AQIM announces that it has executed the French hostage in reprisal for the raid.

- September 16, 2010: Kidnappers abduct five French, a Togolese and a Madagascan in a uranium mining region of Niger.

© 2010 AFP

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