Al-Qaeda chief behind French kidnapping: sources

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A chief of Al-Qaeda's north African offshoot, the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, masterminded the abduction of two murdered Frenchmen, sources from Mali and Niger told AFP Tuesday.

"Mokhtar Belmokhtar was behind the kidnapping of the hostages. It was him. His people told us it was him. There is no doubt about that," said a Malian mediator who has negotiated earlier hostage releases with the high-profile leader.

"Yes, Belmohktar is the leader of the kidnapping. His men were among the kidnappers," said a source from Niger who has also been involved in kidnapping negotiations.

© 2011 AFP

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