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Al-Qaeda blamed for French hostage deaths

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Al-Qaeda blamed for French hostage deaths


The French government has said it is almost certain al-Qaeda was behind the abduction and killing of two Frenchmen in Niger at the weekend. French defence minister Alain Juppe travelled to the capital Niamey earlier to meet Niger authorities to discuss the failed attempt to free the two French hostages.

Some 1,550 French citizens live in Niger and Paris is seeking reassurances over their safety and its interests. Security has already been stepped up at a number of locations in the city, including a cultural centre and a French speaking school.

The two Frenchmen were first seized in Niamey, far from the lawless desert where Islamist bandits usually operate. Their abduction from a bar brings to eight the total number of French citizens snatched in Niger since April.

The pair were found dead, reportedly killed by the captors, after French special forces with the help of Niger’s army tried to rescue them at the weekend. Along with four of the kidnappers three Nigerien soldiers were also killed in the operation.

Residents in Linselles in northern France, the hometown of Antioine de Leocour and Vincent Delory, have being paying tribute to the two men. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is due to meet their families later today.

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