Qaeda says it has killed French hostage: report

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The head of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) said in an audio statement broadcast by Al-Jazeera on Sunday that his group has killed 78-year-old hostage Michel Germaneau, a French aid worker.

"We announce that we executed the French hostage Michel Germaneau on Saturday July 24, 2010, to avenge the killing of our six brothers in the cowardly French raid" on Thursday carried out jointly with Mauritanian forces, AQIM chief Abu Musab Abdul Wadud said in the message which could not immediately be authenticated.

"(French President Nicolas) Sarkozy failed to free his compatriot in this operation but he has, without any doubt, opened for his people and for his country one of the gates of hell," Wadud warned.

"In a rapid and just response to the ignoble actions of France, we announce that we have executed the French hostage."

In Paris, the French presidency said it had received "no confirmation" of the killing of Germaneau, who was kidnapped in Niger on April 19, adding that it was "trying to verify" the claim.

Earlier on Sunday, Mali security sources expressed growing fears for the fate of the French hostage after a failed military raid on a camp in Mali where an Al-Qaeda-linked gang was believed to be holding him.

French and Mauritanian troops launched the secret operation in the Sahara desert on Thursday aimed at rescuing the kidnapped aid worker, officials said.

Six members of AQIM, an offshoot of Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network, were killed in the raid, but while soldiers found arms and documents there was no evidence that Germaneau had been held there.

AQIM had given France until Monday to help secure the release of its jailed members in the region, warning that the aid worker would be executed if Paris failed to comply.

© 2010 AFP

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