France will "do everything" to free five French nationals kidnapped in Niger last week by suspected al Qaeda militants, government spokesman Luc Chatel said on Sunday. Chatel declined to specify whether France was considering military action.
AFP - France refused Sunday to rule out taking military action to free seven hostages, including five French nationals, kidnapped in Niger last week by suspected Al-Qaeda militants.
Mauritanian troops -- who have operated with French support in recent months -- are already in action against Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in northern Mali, but France says its forces are not involved for now.
"France will do everything to free the hostages," government spokesman Luc Chatel told Radio J in Paris.
Asked whether that could involve military action, he replied: "I won't say any more, you must understand why, given the hour at which I'm speaking."
Chatel said France had received no claim of responsibility nor any ransom demand for the latest kidnappings.
French officials had said previously that they believed the kidnappers were connected to AQIM and had taken the hostages to Mali.
In July French commandos accompanied Mauritanian troops in a raid on an Al-Qaeda camp in Mali which left seven militants dead but failed to find a previous French hostage who is now known to be have been killed.
Mauritanian troops went into action against AQIM in Mali again on Saturday, but Chatel said: "No French troops are engaged in this second operation."
The latest batch of hostages was kidnapped on Thursday from their homes in Arlit in northern Niger by suspected AQIM-linked gunmen, or Tuareg bandits who may have planned to sell them on to the Islamists.
The seven are five French nationals, including a married couple, one Togolese and one Madagascan. All worked for French companies involved in uranium mining in the Arlit region.
A Mauritanian military official told AFP that troops were continuing on Sunday to "pound" suspected Al-Qaeda positions in northern Mali.
Date created : 2010-09-19