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The kidnapping of the French in Niger by AQIM

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PARIS - Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has released video containing messages of the four French hostages in Niger, "begging" President Nicolas Sarkozy to withdraw French troops from Afghanistan.

  •    These four French are part of a group of seven people kidnapped in Niger in 2010, three of which were released Feb. 24.
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  • 2010
  •    - September 16: Seven people - five French, a Togolese and a Malagasy - mostly employees of the French group Areva and Satom (subsidiary of Vinci Group), are abducted at Arlit uranium mining site in northern Niger.
  •    - September 20: the hostages are "in Malian territory," says Niamey.
  •    - September 21: AQIM claimed the kidnapping of five French, saying it was prepared under the direction of the Algerian Islamist Abu Zeid Abelhamid.
  •    - Sept. 22: Paris, opened a preliminary investigation.
  •    - September 24: France confirms to be ready to "initiate contact at any time" with AQIM and asserts that a military operation is not on the agenda.
  •    - September 30: AQIM launches a photo of the seven hostages accompanied by an audio recording.
  •    - Oct. 23: The seven hostages are alive," said Prime Minister of Niger, citing contacts on the ground.
  •    - Oct. 27: The head of Al-Qaeda Osama bin Laden justified the kidnapping of the French "in response to the injustice that you apply with respect to our Islamic nation" (message broadcast by Al-Jazeera).
  •    - 12 Nov: French hostage who suffers from cancer "received drugs" (Malian source).
  •    - Nov 17: Paris announces that there is "every reason to believe" that the hostages are in good health.
  •    - 18 Nov: AQIM asks France to negotiate the fate of the hostages directly with bin Laden and demands the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan. Paris says its policy is not dictated by "foreigners".
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  •    2011
  •    - Jan. 21: Bin Laden ties the release of French hostages to the withdrawal of French forces from Afghanistan and warned that the positions of President Sarkozy "will be expensive" to France.
  •    - January 23: the hostages were dispersed and transferred out of Mali (Malian source).
  •    - January 24: Nicolas Sarkozy said the hostages were "alive".
  •    - February 24: A French woman, a Togolese and a Malagasy liberated "territory of Niger" (security source in Niamey). Paris confirms release and said they "are all in good health."
  •    - 21 March: AQIM claimed "at least 90 million euros" for the release of four French claim rejected by France.
  •    - April 23: AQIM claimed "more especially" the departure of French troops from Afghanistan in addition to ransom (source close to the mediation).
  •    - April 26: AQIM broadcasts a video message containing the four hostages, pleading Nicolas Sarkozy to withdraw French troops from Afghanistan. France will not be dictated policy by "kidnappers," says Laurent Wauquiez, Minister of European Affairs.
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  • Ennaharonline/ M. O.

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