Al-Qaeda’s North African branch has confirmed it kidnapped seven foreigners in Niger last week.
Five of the hostages are French, the other two from Togo and Madagascar. They had been working at a uranium mine operated by the French company Areva.
Areva had received prior warnings from local officials warning of the risk of kidnappings but insists it has always done what is necessary to protect its staff. The company has now evacuated all foreign workers in the Arlit region.
Meanwhile hundreds of French commandos and anti-terrorism specialists are in Niger to try and find the hostages. They are believed to be somewhere in the mountainous desert region of north-east Mali, near the border with Algeria.
Paris has also requested help from the US military.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, who have claimed this kidnapping, executed another French hostage in July after a failed raid to free him.