Two French hostages killed in Niger

Two French hostages kidnapped in Niger were found dead Saturday after a failed rescue operation involving French forces, Defense Minister Alain Juppe said.

It was the second abortive French hostage rescue since July in the Sahel region of Africa, where Paris says it is at war with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the regional branch of Osama bin Laden’s network.

The pair were abducted from a bar overnight, the latest French nationals to be snatched in the African country but the first in its capital Niamey, far from the lawless desert where Islamist militants, rebels and bandits flourish.

Juppe said in a statement in Paris that the kidnappers had been pursued to the border with Mali in an operation coordinated with French forces in the region.

“The terrorists were intercepted at the Mali border and several of them were overpowered,” Juppe said. “After the fighting, the two hostages were found dead.”

He added: “France is determined to not give in to terrorism and to defeat terrorists.”

It was not immediately clear who carried out the latest kidnapping, but security analyst Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga, a former Malian defense minister, said it bore the hallmark of an operation by groups linked to al Qaeda in the region.