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Latest update : 2009-02-08

Canadian authorities have been shown a videocassette proving that two of their diplomats captured in Niger in mid-December are still alive, sources close to the investigation said.

AFP - Canada has received a videocassette as proof that two of its diplomats kidnapped in Niger in mid-December are still alive, sources close to the investigation in Mali said Saturday.
"In the cassette, we see the two Canadian diplomats appear before the camera in turn to introduce themselves", a local elder from northern Mali who has seen the video told AFP.
The diplomats, UN envoy to Niger Robert Fowler and Louis Guay, and their driver went missing in mid-December when returning from a visit to a gold mine operated by Canadian company Semafo, west of Niamey in Niger.
Another Malian source who saw the video said it confirms the two diplomats are alive.
"It is Robert Fowler who appears first before the camera. Behind him there are armed men. Mr Fowler asks for a response to the demands of his kidnappers but doesn't provide any more details", said the source.
In the undated video that lasts several minutes Guay "looks dejected", the source said.
They said the driver of the two diplomats, Soumana Moukaila, did not appear in the video.
Their car, which was marked as belonging to the UN Development Program, was discovered on December 15 beside a road in an apparently trouble-free area close to the capital of Niger.
Canada has asked countries in the region to help search for the diplomats and has sent investigators to Mali.
A Canadian newspaper reported last month that there had been some evidence that Fowler was alive, citing UN Security Council sources, but Canadian officials declined to comment on the information.
The Ottawa Citizen mentioned speculation that Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) may have come to hold the three men, saying the involvement of US intelligence officials supported that claim.
AQIM, formerly known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), changed its name to Al-Qaeda in 2007 after swearing allegiance to Osama bin Laden.

Date created : 2009-02-08