France suspects Qaeda behind Niger kidnap

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France suspects militants linked to Al Qaeda's north African wing are behind the kidnap of seven foreign workers in Niger's uranium fields, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Friday.

Officials in Niger had already pointed the finger at Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) after Thursday's raid, in which five French nationals, a Togolese and a Madagascan working for French firms were taken.

"One could imagine that it's the same groups, at least the AQIM movement," Kouchner confirmed in an interview with Europe 1 radio, adding that he feared it was the same gang that had murdered a French hostage in July.

"But I can't be certain, because no-one has claimed responsibility."

The hostages were seized in the early hours from their homes in Arlit, a mining town in northern Niger, according to their employers, the French nuclear giant Areva and construction firm Satom, a subsidiary of Vinci.

© 2010 AFP

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