Two French hostages killed in Niger during an attemp to free them



The two French nationals kidnapped Friday night in a restaurant in the Niger capital, Niamey, were killed Saturday. No further details were given by the local authorities.

The unnamed French citizens were kidnapped Friday night in restaurant in the centre of Niamey, Niger. The two men were having a dinner in “Le Toulousain”, a typical “maquis” (traditional café or restaurant in Africa), when two masked terrorists entered the place and forced them to leave the restaurant and enter a SUV vehicle with Benin plates. The kidnappers had “a clear skin and spoke Arabic” witnesses said.

“Le Toulousain” is very popular in the expatriate circles and was crowded at the time of the abduction. It is located in a part of Niamey which has the reputation to be “secured”.

Details began to emerge, Saturday evening on what exactly happened after the abduction.


Niger police and army immediately reacted by launching an operation to “find and rescue” the hostages. It was announced, in the afternoon of Saturday, that the kidnappers were surrounded a first time, by Niger security forces, not so far from the border with Mali, during the night, and that they exchanged fires with the army.


A second confrontation occurred hours later, involving, this time, French forces as well as Niger army.


Niamey authorities didn’t gave details on this second operation, but in the beginning of Saturday’s evening, the French Defence minister, Mr Alain Juppé, announced that, after the failure of the first confrontation, it was decided both by the Niger army and the French authorities which have armed force in the area to block the terrorist before they enter Mali where they could find a safe haven.


This was clearly a French choice, even if Niger authorities agreed with it: Paris decided not to take the risk to have two hostages more in Mali ( and, thus, to complicate an already inextricable situation with other hostages…), where it is extremely difficult to operate and preferred to take the chance of an immediate armed operation.


During a new confrontation (in which it is understood that French forces took part), “several terrorists” were neutralized. But at the end of the shooting, the rescue team found the two French killed.


It is not yet known if the two hostages were killed during this exchange, by “friendly fires” or shot dead by the kidnappers seeing no chance to escape, but forensic examination will probably clarify this point.


Abduction was not claimed but it is very likely linked to AQIM.

No one claimed the kidnapping, but numerous Westerners were kidnapped in Niger. Five other French hostages and two collaborators, all of them working for the French company AREVA, are the hostages of AQIM, somewhere in North Mali, since last September.

Another French hostage, Michel Germaneau, a retired working I the humanitarian aid was assassinated by AQIM in last July after a botched liberation operation.

It is possibly to assess, a few hours after the tragic end of this kidnapping, that, more than ever, AQIM continues to pose a high level threat to the region and, particularly, to westerners and more specially to French expatriates or travellers. We must also notice that the organisation or its “contractors” is able to act in the centre of the Niger capital, at several hundreds kilometres from its bases.

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