French-backed Mauritanian raid hits Al-Qaeda kidnappers

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French forces provided logistical support for a Mauritanian raid that "neutralised" an Al-Qaeda kidnap gang in the North African desert, the defence ministry said Friday.

"The operation conducted by the Mauritanians succeeded in neutralising the group of terrorists and to thwart their plan to attack Mauritanian targets," the French ministry said in a statement.

"The group of terrorists targeted by the Mauritanian operation was the one that killed a British hostage a year ago and which has refused to give 'proof of life' and enter talks on freeing our compatriot Michel Germaneau."

Germaneau is a 78-year-old French engineer who was kidnapped in April in Niger and is believed to be held somewhere in the Sahara desert by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a North African militant Islamist group.

"The defence ministry confirms that French military means furnished technical and logistical support to a Mauritanian operation designed to thwart an attack on Mauritania by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb," it said.

The French statement did not say where the raid took place. Sources in Africa had earlier suggested that the Mauritanian force had crossed into the deserts of neighbouring Mali.

© 2010 AFP

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