France says it has provided support to Mauritanian troops in a military operation against an al-Qaida group believed to be holding a French national hostage.

The announcement was made Friday by the French defense ministry.

The ministry did not reveal when or where the operation took place - but said it involved French logistical and technical support.  

The Spanish daily El Pais reported French commandoes killed six militants in the raid against al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.  But it said they found no sign of the hostage, 78-year-old Michel Germaneu.  

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb gave France 15 days from July 12 to arrange a prisoner exchange for Germaneau, who was kidnapped in April.  It threatened to kill him if Paris does not meet the deadline.

The group said in an Internet statement that French President Nicolas Sarkozy would be responsible for Germaneau's life and that if Mr. Sarkozy did not respond, he will have committed "the same folly" as former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.  The al-Qaida group killed British captive Edwin Dyer last year after London refused to yield to its demands.

The group is also holding two Spanish aid workers kidnapped in November, and is accused of killing a British hostage a year ago.  

Germaneau and his Algerian driver were kidnapped in the vast desert region near Niger's border with Algeria and Mali in April.  The driver was released later that month.

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