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Kidnappers of French employees had ‘inside information’

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-09-22

Nigerien kidnappers who seized employees of a French nuclear plant last week may have benefited from inside information from the company, a security consultant has claimed.

As French troops landed in Niger to step up the hunt for seven foreign nuclear workers (working for France's Areva) kidnapped last week by al Qaeda's North Africa branch, new information has emerged on how the abductors may have been able to break into the employee compound near the mining town of Arlit.

Colonel Jacques Hogard, an outside security consultant for the French nuclear group Areva said to RTL Radio Monday that the kidnappers “benefited from excellent information from inside Areva. That is clear. You can call it a betrayal.”

Hogard raised the possibility that the hostage-takers had initially planned to target a group of tourists from France and elsewhere, but having missed that target, then shifted their focus to the nuclear employee compound.

A man who worked for Areva and his wife were among those kidnapped last Thursday near the mining town in northern Niger. The other five victims worked for a subcontractor called Satom.

An Areva spokesman acknowledged Monday that security ''breakdowns'' existed before the abductions. The Niger government accused the company of refusing army protection in favour of its own private security guards. The guards were unarmed, which Areva said was not a security oversight, but rather in adherence to Nigerien law.

Areva declined to comment on Hogard's remarks. 

Areva is developing the site in the north of Niger and expected to put it into service in late 2013.

Date created : 2010-09-21

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