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French Woman Kidnapped by Somali Militants in Kenya Dies

A cancer-stricken and quadriplegic Frenchwoman who was kidnapped off an island resort in northern Kenya and taken to Somalia early this month appears to have died, French officials said Wednesday.

Unspecified "contacts" told French officials that Marie Dedieu, 66, had died but that the date and circumstances of her death were not immediately clear, France's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The kidnappers "probably refused to give her the medication we sent her," the ministry said. The Kenyan government has blamed the attack on Somali militants from the al-Shabab group.

After a weekly Cabinet meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Dedieu's death "isn't totally confirmed but is more than probable."

"Madame Dedieu was a gravely ill 66-year-old woman, afflicted with cancer (and) quadriplegic," he said. "Seizing a woman in this state is an act of barbarity and absolutely unspeakable violence."

French officials demanded that her remains be handed over.

Dedieu was captured from an island resort near the northern Kenyan town of Lamu on Oct. 1.

"Oh my God, she was my friend," said Lamu resident Beatrice Halua, after being told of Dedieu's death. "Sometimes I would cross (the water) to give her a massage -- she had bad circulation in her legs -- and she would give me advice on life."

"She knew how to live with everyone: good people, bad people. She was a nice person -- she had so many friends," she added. "Please, they have to just send back her body now. We need to see her for the last time."

Peter Gitau, a neighbor on the island Dedieu lived on, said he had feared Dedieu would die while in captivity.

"I knew she would die because of the situation she is in. Every four or five hours she was taking medicine," he said.