Areva admits security mistakes

2010-09-20 10:32

Paris - French nuclear group Areva on Monday denied refusing help from the Niger government to protect its workers in the West African state, but admitted it had made security mistakes.

An Areva employee and his wife were among seven people kidnapped in Niger last week by suspected al-Qaeda militants.

"There were without doubt... failings, things which did not work," said company spokesperson Jacques-Emmanuel Saulnier. But he denied the firm had refused an offer by Niger's government to have troops protect its workers.

"We never refused help of any sort," he told Europe 1 radio.

The denial came after the Niger government said the firm had rejected its offer of troops to protect its workers at uranium fields and had instead chosen to use unarmed private security guards.

The hostages were kidnapped on Thursday from their homes in Arlit in northern Niger by suspected al-Qaeda linked gunmen, or Tuareg bandits who may have planned to sell them on to the Islamists.

The seven are five French nationals, one Togolese and one Madagascan. All worked for French companies involved in uranium mining in the Arlit region.

After initially announcing tighter security at its site in Arlit, both Areva and fellow French company Vinci decided to repatriate their foreign workers.