France faces a “specific threat” from a terrorist group in the Sahara Desert affiliated with al-Qaida, which claimed it had kidnapped five French citizens in Niger, the chief of the country’s police said.
“There is a specific threat against French interests” by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb or AQMI, Frederic Pechenard told Europe 1 radio today. “We fear either an attack on a specific person” or a bomb, he said.
He said the threat was “real,” dismissing comments by French media including Le Monde and Le Parisien that the past week’s alerts were political.
In a message sent to Al-Jazeera television yesterday, al-Qaida claimed responsibility for kidnapping seven people in Niger. The hostages, five workers from Vinci SA’s Satom subsidiary and one Areva SA employee and his wife, were kidnapped in Arlit, northern Niger, during the night of Sept. 15 or early Sept. 16, the companies have said.
France “is still verifying the information,” Romain Nadal, a spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry in Paris, said by telephone, referring to the claim released by Al-Jazeera.
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