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Four French Hostages Released After Being Kidnapped in Niger

Four French mining employees kidnapped by militants in northern Niger have been released.

The Tuareg rebel group, Niger Justice Movement, posted a statement on its Web site saying the hostages were released unharmed to the Red Cross Wednesday.

The Red Cross has confirmed the release.

The four employees of the French company Areva were kidnapped on Sunday from a uranium mine in northern Niger.

The rebels had said they took the hostages to put pressure on Areva and the French government to urge Niger to share more benefits from the country's mining industry with inhabitants of the mineral-rich north.

Nomadic Tuaregs have staged periodic revolts in Niger and in neighboring Mali. In both countries, the light-skinned Tuaregs complain that black-dominated governments neglect their communities.

Earlier Wednesday, the rebels said army combat helicopters attacked their camps in the north of the country on Tuesday.

There has been no independent confirmation.

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