French tourist kidnapped in Niger

2010-04-23 12:11

Niamey - A Frenchman and an Algerian were kidnapped Thursday in northern Niger, close to the Algerian border, by a group claiming to be connected to al-Qaeda, Niger security officials and other sources said.

"A Frenchman, possibly a tourist, and an Algerian were seized today near Inabangaret close to Algeria," a security source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The two were kidnapped "by armed men", another security source said, adding that the Algerian was the Frenchman's chauffeur.

Informed sources said that a group claiming to be close to al-Qaeda was responsible for the kidnappings.

"The men of Taleb Abdoulkrim were responsible," a Niger security source said.

"Taleb Abdoulkrim" is the nickname of the head of a group operating in the region. It claims to be close to al-Qaeda, which carried out the 9/11 bombings in the United States, but had not up to now taken hostages.

Another source close to the inquiry confirmed that the Abdoulkrim group was responsible for the kidnappings, saying they had been "very well prepared".

Tourist abductions are frequent in the vast desert zone between Niger, Mali and Algeria, where al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) operates.

Four Europeans were kidnapped in January 2009 in Niger. AQMI later killed the British tourist, but liberated the remaining three.