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London issues travel alert for Mali

LONDON, Nov. 4 (UPI) -- British residents are advised against traveling in the northern provinces of Mali because of the high threat of kidnapping, the government said Thursday.

Niger, Mali and Mauritania are under a growing threat from al-Qaida operatives targeting Western workers.

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Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, the North African branch of al-Qaida, kidnapped five French nationals recently. An American aid worker was killed by al-Qaida guerrillas last year.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth office said it was worried about heightened terrorist activity in the region and the ever-present threat of kidnapping ahead of the Festival in the Desert scheduled for January.

The festival is an annual arts and music event in northern Mali.

"We advise against all travel to the northern provinces of Mali, due to terrorist activity and the threat of kidnap," the warning read.

AQIM in July announced that it beheaded Michel Germaneau after French authorities botched a raid to rescue the 78-year-old French engineer in Mali.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared war on AQIM for killing Germaneau. France has been on a heightened state of alert after detainees in Afghanistan warned of a broad European attacks.

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Osama bin Laden, the reclusive leader of al-Qaida, said France was being targeted for meddling in African affairs.

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