Officials blame Al Qaeda for killing of French hostages in Niger
French and African officials say Saturday's killing of two French hostage in Niger was likely carried out by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which has claimed responsibility for a number of kidnappings in recent years.
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Including the two French hostages, four people have been abducted and killed there in the past two years. In September, five French citizens and two Africans were kidnapped by AQIM, which demanded that France negotiate with Osama bin Laden and pull out of Afghanistan in exchange for their release. French authorities say the area where AQIM operates is “essentially lawless and is outside the sovereign reach of governments,” reports The New York Times.
France refuses to negotiate?
French officials have refused to negotiate with Mr. bin Laden, but stirred some controversy in October when France’s defense minister announced plans to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan a day after bin Laden allegedly issued an audio tape, reports Deutsche Welle.
French officials insisted that the audio tape and France’s decision were unconnected. The tape also described the abduction of the Frenchmen in Niger as the result of “injustices against Muslims.”
In the face of worsening security conditions, French authorities are now advising all of their citizens to avoid travel in the Sahel region, reports Agence France-Presse. On the French Foreign Ministry’s website, citizens are urged to practice “the greatest vigilance” and warned that “No place can be considered safe” for French traveling in the area.