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AQIM prompts Niger travel warning

Jan. 12, 2011 at 10:08 AM

LONDON, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- The British government warned against travel in parts of Niger after two French hostages were killed by al-Qaida militants near the border with Mali.

Two Frenchmen kidnapped by gunmen in Niger were found dead Saturday after a rescue attempt, the French government said.

No group claimed responsibility for the kidnapping but in recent years several Westerners have been seized in Niger by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. French Defense Minister Alain Juppe said during the weekend there was "little doubt" that AQIM was behind the latest kidnappings.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office advised against travel to parts of Niger and all but essential travel in general.

"There is a high threat from terrorism in Niger," the warning read. "Terrorists have been involved in kidnappings in the region and we believe that further kidnap attacks are likely."

The British government warned that AQIM, al-Qaida's North African branch, was involved in kidnappings in part for monetary gain.

AQIM, which went by the name Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden in 2007.

The group in July said it killed 78-year-old French hostage Michel Germeneau following a failed attempt to rescue the engineer by French and Mauritanian troops.

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