Al-Qaida North Africa branch claims responsibility for kidnapping 5 French in Niger
CAIRO – CAIRO (AP) — Al-Qaida's North Africa branch claimed responsibility in an audio message broadcast Tuesday for kidnapping five French nationals that disappeared in the deserts of Niger last week.
Seven foreign workers were kidnapped from a uranium mine operated by the French company Areva in Niger Thursday and were last seen heading toward the neighboring countries of Mali and Algeria with about 30 captors before vanishing in the vast desert.
"The men were able to attack the mine of Arlit in Niger which is considered one the most important sources of uranium that France has been stealing from for decades," said the excerpt purported to be from al-Qaida in the North Africa that was broadcast on Al-Jazeera news channel.
The message said fighters from the group overcame security in the area and kidnapped "five French nuclear experts" and said it would issue its demands to the French government "shortly."
"We also warn them from doing anything stupid," it added.
In July, AQIM said it executed a 78-year-old French aid worker it had taken hostage three months before, saying the killing was in retaliation for the deaths of six al-Qaida members in a French-backed military operation against the group.
There was no way to authenticate the message, but in the past al-Qaida and its affiliates have claimed responsibility for operations through messages sent to Al-Jazeera.
Those abducted from Arlit mining town include five French nationals, one from Togo and one from Madagascar. One of the men taken worked for Areva, along with his wife, and the others were employees of a subcontractor called Satom.
Al-Qaida's affiliate in North Africa operates in the vast desert region from Mauritania to Chad. The group grew out of an Algerian insurgency movement that officially joined with the terrorist network in 2006.
Areva, a leading global nuclear manufacturer, gets much of its uranium from Niger. Aid groups say almost half of Niger's population desperately needs food and up to one in six children suffers from acute malnutrition.