French helicopters comb Mali skies after death of hostages

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French military helicopters on Monday patrolled the skies above Mali's north east, two days after the death of two French hostages in the border zone between Mali and Niger, an airport source said.

"The French army helicopters are currently patrolling the skies of Menaka, probably for a search operation," the source told AFP in Bamako via telephone.

A military source from northern Mali confirmed the information.

The two 25-year old Frenchmen, Antoine de Leocour and Vincent Delory, were kidnapped on Friday night from a restuarant in Niger's capital Niamey by gunmen who transported them towards the northern town of Tiloa near the Mali border.

They were killed on Saturday after a joint operation by the Niger army and commandos from the French special forces against the kidnappers.

Four French combat helicopters which took part in the attack had been stationed at the small Menaka airport.

The kidnap and murder has not yet been claimed by any group but all suspicion is pointed at Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) which has already carried out several kidnappings and executions of foreigners in the Sahel.

© 2011 AFP

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