French hostages found dead in Niger: minister

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Two Frenchmen kidnapped in Niger were found dead after a rescue operation near the Mali border on Saturday, French Defence Minister Alain Juppe said.

"When they (the kidnappers) arrived at the border zone, the operation was launched, coordinated with French elements in the region, allowing (Niger's National Guard) to intercept the terrorists on the border with Mali and neutralise some of them," Juppe said in a statement.

"At the end of the operation, the bodies of the two hostages were discovered without life," he said.

The two Frenchmen were kidnapped from a restaurant in the capital Niamey on Friday evening by four armed men, Juppe said.

"After a skirmish in the night during which the head of the Nigerien National Guard unit was injured, the terrorists continued in the direction of Mali," he said.

Juppe offered his condolences to the families of the hostages, and praised the Niger government for its efforts to free the two men.

© 2011 AFP

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