French company says seven employees abducted in Niger

19:43, September 16, 2010      

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Seven people working for French nuclear power group Areva and Satom were kidnapped in northern Niger on Thursday, a spokesman for the state-owned company said.

The seven were kidnapped overnight Wednesday to Thursday near the town of Arlit, Areva spokeswoman Pauline Briand told The Associated Press. Two of those abducted, a man and a woman, were Areva employees and French citizens and the five others worked for an Areva subcontractor, she said.

Briand declined to provide their nationalities or any further details. She said the company had not yet received any claim of responsibility for the kidnappings.

A French Foreign Ministry official said the ministry was trying to confirm the abductions. Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told Xinhua the abductions were "quite possible."

"We are making all efforts to obtain confirmation of the information," he said.

Nigerian government spokesman Laouali Dan Dah said at least five people had been kidnapped overnight and authorities had taken measures to trace the kidnappers and rescue the hostages.

Areva employees working in Niger have been abducted in the past. In 2008, the company announced the release of four of its employees _ all French nationals _ who had been kidnapped by a rebel group, the Movement for Justice, which opposes the mining of ancestral lands.

Al-Qaida's North African affiliate is also active in the region and has targeted French and other European nationals in previous kidnappings.

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or North Africa, claimed responsibility for the July execution of an ailing 78-year-old French aid worker. Michel Germaneau was slain in Mali three months after his initial abduction in Niger in April.

The leader of al-Qaida's North African branch said the Frenchman was killed in retaliation for the deaths of six al-Qaida members in a military operation in the Sahara.

Source: Xinhua

(Editor:李牧(实习))

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