Qaeda `claims kidnap of Frenchmen` later killed

Al Qaeda`s North Africa branch claimed they kidnapped two Frenchmen in Niger, saying they were later killed in clashes between militants and French forces, according to a message Al-Jazeera aired.

Last Updated: Jan 13, 2011, 21:48 PM IST

Dubai: Al Qaeda`s North Africa branch
claimed today they kidnapped two Frenchmen in Niger, saying
they were later killed in clashes between militants and French
forces, according to a message Al-Jazeera aired.

"A group of mujahedeen (holy warriors) stormed on
January 7 into the fortified diplomatic quarter in Niamey and
succeeded in kidnapping two Frenchmen," said the audio message
attributed to a spokesman for al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb
(AQIM).

The claim appeared to dispute an official French
statement that the kidnappers executed the two hostages.

The AQIM spokesman accused the French government of
being "reckless" after the kidnappers had warned the French
and Niger sides against pursuing them.

"(French President Nicholas) Sarkozy and his reckless
government did not heed earlier lessons of failure and have
repeated the same stupidity," he said.

"Two heroic clashes between the mujahedeen and the
French and Niger forces took place and resulted in a
catastrophic failure to free the two hostages.

"The confrontation resulted in the death of the two
hostages, as well as two members of the French special forces,
and wounding of others, while 25 Niger troops were either
killed or wounded," he added, referring to the pursuit by
French and Niger security forces across the desert and into
neighbouring Mali.

"A French helicopter was disabled," the AQIM spokesman
added.

PTI