The head of al-Qaida's branch in North Africa says his group has killed a French hostage in response to a raid by France and Mauritania against the militant group.
In an audio message broadcast Sunday on the Arabic network Al-Jazeera, a man identified as the leader of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb said Michel Germaneau was killed in retaliation for the death of six al-Qaida members during the raid conducted last week in Mali by Mauritanian troops backed by French special forces.
The al-Qaida leader said French President Nicolas Sarkozy was unable to free Germaneau through a "failed" military operation.
French officials refused to confirm the audio message.
Germaneau, a 78-year-old engineer, was kidnapped with his Algerian driver near Niger's border with Algeria and Mali in April. The driver was later released.
A French official said French forces found no trace of Germaneau during last week's military operation.
Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb had given France until Monday to arrange a prisoner exchange for Germaneau's release. The group threatened to kill him if Paris did not meet the deadline.
The terrorist group operates across a vast desert region that includes Algeria, Mali, Niger, and Mauritania.
Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb killed British captive Edwin Dyer last year after Britain refused to yield to its demands. It is now holding two Spanish aid workers kidnapped last year.
Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.