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Al-Qaida Claims Kidnapping of French Nationals in Niger


The funeral convoy leaves with the coffins of French nationals Vincent Delory and Antoine De Leocour, abducted and killed in Niger over the weekend, after their arrival at Paris' Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport, 12 Jan 2011

The funeral convoy leaves with the coffins of French nationals Vincent Delory and Antoine De Leocour, abducted and killed in Niger over the weekend, after their arrival at Paris' Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport, 12 Jan 2011

Al-Qaida's North African branch has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping in Niger last week of two French nationals, later found dead in a failed rescue attempt.

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb issued the claim Thursday in an audio message distributed to various media outlets.

The group said fighters kidnapped the two Frenchmen from a secured diplomatic neighborhood of Niger's capital, Niamey, last Friday. It said the hostages were killed during clashes between its fighters and forces from France and Niger who were trying to rescue the men.

Earlier this week, France's Prime Minister Francois Fillon blamed the al-Qaida group for both the kidnapping and killing of the two French citizens. He said the kidnappers killed the hostages in "cold blood" after realizing they were being pursued Saturday.

Security officials in Niger have said they are questioning two suspects about the abduction and killing. Officials said those two suspects were captured during Saturday's rescue attempt.

On Thursday, the United States urged Americans in Niger to use "extreme caution" because of what it called increased kidnapping threats.

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility last year for killing and kidnapping a 78-year-old Frenchman.

France believes the group also kidnapped five French hostages in Niger in September, along with two Africans, one from Togo and one from Madagascar.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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