9 Jan 2011

French hostages killed in Niger

11:33 am on 9 January 2011

Two French hostages kinapped in Niger were found dead after an attempted rescue operation, the French Defence Minister has confirmed.

The men had been abducted from a bar in the capital Niamey, the BBC reports.

Alain Juppe said members of Niger's national guard pursued the kidnappers to an area close to the border with Mali, in an operation coordinated with French forces in the region.

Mr Juppe said several of the terrorists were overpowered. "After the fighting, the two hostages were found dead," he said.

A French armed forces spokesman told Reuters that France believed the hostages had been executed by their captors.

One of the kidnapped men was reportedly an aid worker due to be married to a woman from Niger, and the other man was his friend.

A government spokesman said the kidnappers spoke Arabic, French and Hawza, but that their identity could not be confirmed as they had their faces covered.

No group has said it was behind the abduction, but al-Qaeda's North African offshoot has seized Westerners before.