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France’s defence minister defends failed rescue operation in Niger

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2011-01-10

France’s defence minister Alain Juppe (photo) told reporters Sunday that he took responsibility for the failed rescue efforts that culminated in the deaths of two French nationals. He said the decision to deploy forces as difficult but necessary.

French Defence Minister Alain Juppe said Sunday the government took full responsibility for the failed rescue efforts that culminated in the deaths of two kidnapped French nationals in Niger Saturday.

“We had to make this decision... It was a very important decision to make and we made it... and we take full responsibility," Juppé said on French network TF1 late Sunday.

Alain Juppe, who is due to arrive in Niger’s capital Niamey for talks with officials on Monday, said the decision to launch the rescue mission went ahead because doing nothing would pose a “double threat for France”.

“On one hand we risked that that the hostages would be taken to a camp in Sahel by their abductors and on the other, refraining from all action would have signalled to the kidnappers that in the end France doesn't fight terrorism'”, said Juppe.

French nationals Antoine de Léocour and Vincent Delory, 25, were abducted by four armed men in a restaurant in Niger’s capital Niamey on Friday night. De Leocour, an aid worker, was to marry a local woman in one week’s time, and Delory was going to be his best man.

Their bodies were found Saturday at the Niger-Mali border after Niger and French forces were deployed in a rescue attempt. No one has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and the circumstances of their deaths remain unclear.

“In order to have formal proof we must conclude the judicial enquiry and the coroner’s report with the authorities of Niger. However, it is first and foremost the responsibility of France to get to the bottom of the investigation”, Juppe stated.

Juppe refused to say what effect the deaths would have on France's efforts to secure the release of five other French nationals, kidnapped in September in Niger and believed to be held in neighbouring Mali by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, who claimed responsibility for the kidnappings.

In addition, Prime Minister Francis Fillon is set to meet with French lawmakers over the growing security issue of French citizens abroad.


 

Date created : 2011-01-10

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