Monday, 10 January 2011

Two French hostages killed in Niger

The French defence minister, Alain Juppe, has defended France's decision to send a rescue mission for the French nationals abducted in the Niger capital Niamey. He said that France had to take action otherwise it would have been said that it “does not fight terrorism.”

It is believed that the two men were killed during the rescue mission. The bodies of Antoine de Leocour and Vincent Delory were discovered, after the undertaking to free them, on the Niger-Mali border.

De Leocour had worked in Niger for a couple of years and was due to get married to a local woman next week and Delory, who was to be his best man, had flown in for the wedding.

The two friends were kidnapped by four armed men from a restaurant in Niamey on Friday 8th January. The mission to free the hostages, both 25, involved French specialist forces and helicopters. Speaking about the rescue mission, authorised by President Nicolas Sarkozy, Juppe said "It was a serious, difficult decision but we took it and we take full responsibility.”

No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, but the French government suspects Al-Qai'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) to be behind the killings. Both countries agree that the men were executed by their captors, however, there is no official proof to support this theory.

Juppe is travelling to Niger today [10th January] to meet with the country's authorities and assist the French investigators who were sent to the West African country after a French prosecutor opened a formal probe into the weekend deaths.

Sources: The Washington Post, BBC News, AP, Ahram Online

For more news and expert analysis about the Sahara region, please see Sahara Focus.

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