French defence minister heads to Niger

AFP, Monday 10 Jan 2011

France's minister of defence travels on Monday to Niger following the kidnapping and murder of two French nationals

France Defence Minister Alain Juppe travelled on Monday to Niger for talks with officials there after two French hostages died during an attempt to rescue them from suspected Al-Qaeda-linked militants.

Juppe's visit comes two days after the young Frenchmen were found dead in the west African desert state after a failed rescue operation by Niger and French troops.

French anti-terror police have already arrived in Niger to investigate the deaths, officials in Paris said.

One of the dead hostages was an aid worker who had been due to marry a Nigerien woman next week. The other was his best man who had just arrived in Niamey for the ceremony, according to France's Journal du Dimanche.

A Nigerien government spokesman said Sunday that three Nigerien security forces had been killed in the attack on the kidnappers, without elaborating on the circumstances of their deaths.

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