Al Qaeda-linked group claims kidnapping of foreigners in Algeria

NOUAKCHOTT Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:12am EST

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NOUAKCHOTT Jan 16 (Reuters) - An al Qaeda-linked group operating in the Sahara has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping on Wednesday of five Japanese and a French citizen, Mauritania's ANI news agency reported.

ANI, which has regular direct contact with Islamists, said fighters under the command of Mokhtar Belmokhtar were holding the foreigners seized from an Algerian gas field.

A local source said the French national was killed in an attack on the facility.

Belmokhtar for years commanded al Qaeda fighters in the Sahara before setting up his own armed Islamist group late last year after an apparent fallout with other militant leaders.

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