Five French kidnapped in Niger: nuclear firm

NIAMEY Thu Sep 16, 2010 5:49am EDT

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NIAMEY (Reuters) - Five French nationals including two staff of French nuclear company Areva, were kidnapped in northern Niger Thursday, a spokesman for Areva in the capital Niamey said.

"They were kidnapped very early this morning in the town of Arlit," the spokesman said by telephone, referring to a northern town near the companies uranium mining operations.

The other three hostages worked for construction company Sogea-Satom, he said.

France's foreign ministry said it was investigating a possible kidnapping in Niger of a group of people including French citizens.

Kidnappings of foreigners has become more frequent in West Africa's Sahara-Sahel region over the last year, with hostages usually ending up in the hands of groups linked to al Qaeda's North African wing.

France has said it is at war with the group and pledged further military support to countries in the region after Islamists said in July they had executed a French citizen they were holding after a failed French-Mauritanian raid to free him.

(Reporting by Abdoulaye Massalatchi; Writing by Mark John and David Lewis; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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