French Enmilal aid group member Michel Germaneau (2007 File)
French Enmilal aid group member Michel Germaneau (2007 File)

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has confirmed that a French hostage was killed by al-Qaida's branch in North Africa.

President Sarkozy said Monday during a television broadcast he condemned the "barbarous act" against Michel Germaneau, a French aid worker.     

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 Germaneau was killed in retaliation for the death of six al-Qaida members during a raid last week in Mali.

The al-Qaida leader said Mr. Sarkozy was unable to free Germaneau through a "failed" military operation.

Mr. Sarkozy also urged French citizens to avoid traveling to Africa's Sahel region.  Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb has carried out numerous attacks and kidnappings across the Sahara and Sahel regions.

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.

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb had given France until Monday to arrange a prisoner exchange for Germaneau's release.  The group said in an Internet statement that Mr. Sarkozy would be responsible for Germaneau's life.

The terrorist group operates across a vast desert region that includes Algeria, Mali, Niger and Mauritania.