Niger hostages held in Mali

2010-09-26 18:38

Paris - The seven foreigners, including five French nationals, that were kidnapped earlier this month in Niger are being held in a mountainous region in northwestern Mali, France said on Sunday.

France has yet to receive any demands from the North African wing of al-Qaeda (AQIM) five days after the group claimed responsibility for the abduction of workers from their homes in the mining town of Arlit.

"The hostages are being held in the Timetrine region in the northwest of Mali," a spokesperson at the Elysee presidential palace told Reuters.

He declined to say whether the hostages, who are employees of French firms Areva and Vinci, were still alive but said France would consider negotiating with the hostage takers for their release.

French public radio reported shortly after the kidnappings that the hostages had been transported to Mali, although there was no confirmation from official sources until now.

A Malian source close to the matter said on Sunday the country's authorities had no contact with the kidnappers and declined to say if the hostages were still alive. In addition to the five French, two citizens of Togo and Madagascar were seized.

The source said the country had activated its usual networks to get in contact with the hostage-takers but had so far received no response.

France is dealing with a spate of unrelated kidnappings of its nationals abroad. Three Frenchmen were taken hostage after their boat was attacked in the restive Niger Delta region and two journalists have been held for months in Afghanistan.

Five French hostages kidnapped with a Togolese and a Madagascan by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb 10 days ago "are alive" in Mali, a Malian source close to the matter said on Sunday.