France probes group kidnap in Niger

2010-09-16 14:43

Paris - French firms Areva and Vinci said on Thursday that seven of their employees had been kidnapped overnight in a uranium mining district of Niger, a foreign ministry spokesperson said on Thursday.

The nuclear group Areva said that two of employees at its uranium mine in Arlit, northern Niger had been kidnapped overnight. The firm did not identify the hostages, nor give their nationalities.

Construction firm Sogea-Satom, a subsidiary of engineering giant Vinci, said five of its employees had been kidnapped.

"We're doing everything we can to confirm this information," French Foreign Ministry spokesperson Bernard Valero said.

According to a report on the website of the newspaper Le Monde, the seven include five Frenchmen.

Areva operates a major uranium mining operation in the Arlit region, which is remote and prey to roving gangs of Touareg rebels, armed bandits and Islamist militants linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim).

Last month France declared it was "at war" with al-Qaeda after the murder of a previous French hostage taken in Niger, 78-year-old Michel Germaneau.