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Saturday 05 February 2011

Al-Qaeda kidnap gang kill 78-year-old French aid worker

A 78-year-old French aid worker kidnapped by al-Qaeda was executed in the Sahara after a failed attempt to free him left six militants dead, President Nicolas Sarkozy said.

Michel Germaneau
Michel Germaneau, the late French hostage Photo: REUTERS

Mr Sarkozy condemned the killing of Michel Germaneau, and said his killers "will not go unpunished." He said the killing illustrated the need to keep up the fight against terrorism.

The leader of al-Qaeda's North African branch, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghbreb, said in a message broadcast on Sunday that the Frenchman was killed in retaliation for the deaths of six al-Qaeda members in a military operation in the Sahara last week.

Mr Sarkozy defended France's decision to take part in that operation with troops from Mauritania as a last-ditch effort to free Mr Germaneau.

"Convinced he was condemned to a certain death, we had the duty to make this effort to pull him free from his captors," Mr Sarkozy said in a public address after an emergency government meeting in Paris on Monday.

That effort failed and Mr Germaneau was killed "in cold blood," Mr Sarkozy said, without specifying when or where.

Mr Germaneau was abducted April 22 in Niger, and officials later said he was taken to Mali.

Amid increasing concerns about terrorism and trafficking in northwest Africa, four countries – Algeria, Mauritania, Mali and Niger – in April opened a joint military headquarters deep in the desert. The goal has been to establish a collective response to threats from traffickers and the al-Qaeda offshoot.

The al-Qaeda branch is also holding two Spanish aid workers, Roque Pascual and Albert Vilalta, who were taken hostage in Mauritania in November.

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