Paris: France`s foreign minister says authorities believe al Qaeda`s North Africa branch could be behind the kidnapping of five French nationals and two Africans in Niger.
Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner says no one has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings. But he told French radio Europe-1 on Friday that "we imagine al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is responsible”.
Officials say those abducted included a man who worked for the French state-owned nuclear company Areva and his wife, and five employees of a subcontractor called Satom.
Al Qaeda`s North African affiliate has targeted French and other Europeans in previous kidnappings.
Armed assailants kidnapped the seven early Thursday near the mining town of Arlit, in Niger`s northern Sahara desert region. Five are French, one is from Togo and one is from Madagascar.