French President Nicolas Sarkozy convened his national security team for an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss reports that Islamic militants in North Africa had killed French aid worker Michel Germaneau, who had been held captive since April 19.
But despite the allegations that he was killed this weekend, French officials said they have not received any independent confirmation of Germaneau’s death.
Germaneau was last seen on May 14 when his abductors issued a photo of the frail, retired engineer. He said at the time that he suffered from a serious heart illness and that he had run out of medication. The heat, he added, further complicated his weak health.
A devoted humanitarian who fell in love with Niger
Germaneau was captured from the village of In-Abangharet in the deserts of northern Niger where he had been working to build health systems and schools for the humanitarian aid agency Enimal.
Germaneau made his first visit to the region in 2006 when he was there with a group of friends to observe a solar eclipse. He apparently fell in love with the area and its people. “After this trip, we got a group of people and decided to do something for this region,” said friend and Enimal president Yvonne Montico.
Germaneau, according to friends, was an avid traveller throughout his career and well into his retirement. The former electronics engineer from southwest France was unmarried and had no children. After he retired, he devoted more and more of his time to volunteer projects throughout North Africa.
There he became friends with an Algerian, Abidine Ouaghi, who he worked with in Niger to build clinics, schools and water purification systems among other projects. Ouaghi was with Germaneau on April 19 when a group of AQIM militants stormed the village to take the two men hostage. While Ouaghi was released a few days later, Germaneau was not as fortunate.