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Fem ansatte i det franske atomselskapet Areva ble sist uke bortført i Niger av Al Qaida i det islamske Maghreb, AQIM. To afrikanske arbeidere ble også tatt. AQIM bekreftet tirsdag kveld at det var de som sto bak. AQIM advarer Frankrike mot å forsøke å befri fangene.

Two US officials told AFP that France has asked Washington for military help to track down the captives.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, declined to offer any details about the US military’s support for French forces, but analysts said the assistance could include imagery from spy satellites or unmanned aircraft.

A US counter-terrorism official said the group’s North African branch was «a dangerous terrorist node that’s capable of carrying out a range of vicious attacks against innocents.»

«Their intentions shouldn’t be underestimated, and that’s why it’s important to thwart their plans and activities,» he said.

The AQIM statement said Algerian Abdelhamid Abou Zeid had led the kidnap operation.

«Following the promise of our emir, Abou Moussab (Algerian Abdelmalek Droukdel), a group of heroic mujahedeen last Wednesday, under the command of Sheikh Abou Zeid, succeeded in penetrating the French mining site at Arlit in Niger,» Mohammed said.

The site was one of the «world’s main sources of uranium and France has for decades constantly plundered this strategic resource,» he added.

«Despite strict military measures and numerous security barriers, the lions of Islam succeeded in evading all surveillance and kidnapped five French nuclear experts working for the Areva company,» he said.

AQIMs trusler er ikke tomme. Da franske og mauritanske soldater forsøkte å befri den kidnappede ingeniøren Michel Germaneau, reagerte jihadistene med å drepe ham. Germaneau var 78 år.

Germaneaus skjebne er en illustrasjon på Al Qaidas brutalitet. Han var 78 år, og sivilingeniør. Han ble drept 24. juli, to dager etter et mislykket forsøk på å befri ham. Bildet er fra begravelsen i Marcoussis, en forstad til Paris, 29. juli. Juniorminister for digital økonomi, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, foran.

Al-Qaeda claims French kidnappings in Sahara