Mali - France

Al-Qaeda warns France not to attempt hostage rescue, site says

Abdel Hamid Abou Zaid, Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb fighter
Abdel Hamid Abou Zaid, Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb fighter

An Al-Qaeda offshoot has warned France not to launch a military operation to rescue five French nationals, who were captured during a raid in northern Niger last week, a US-based monitoring site reports.

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Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) posted a statement on jihadist forums in which it said the kidnappings were “retaliation”, a US-based intelligence group SITE reports. AQIM also warns France against attempting a rescue operation “like they had done for Michel Germaneau”.

In July, Mauritanian troops carried out a deadly raid on Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb militants in a bid to rescue another hostage Michel Germaneau. The raid was launched with the support of the French army, France's defence ministry has said.

The group said it executed the 78-year-old in retaliation for the attack, in which several AQIM fighters died.

On 16 September, AQIM raided a French firm working in northern Niger’s uranium field, kidnapping five French nationals along with a Togolese and a Madagascan. The captives are now believed to be in Mali.

On Thursday, France’s Defence Minister Herve Morin told French radio he did not have any proof of life but had “very reason to believe the hostages are alive.” He added that France is currently seeking contacts with Al-Qaeda fighters to hear their demands.

French troops have landed in Niger to step up the hunt for the seven employees of the firm Areva. On Monday, Colonel Jacques Hogard, an outside consultant for the French nuclear group told French RTL radio that the kidnappers benefited from “excellent information” inside Areva.

On Wednesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that France would mobilise all its organs of state to secure the release of the captives.

In an unrelated incident, three French nationals were kidnapped on Wednesday in the oil-rich Niger Delta. Nigeria’s main rebel group MEND say that have located the captives and were trying to get them to their custody.

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