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Two French hostages killed in Niger
Less than 24 hours after being kidnapped in Niger, an aid worker and his childhood friend were found dead on Saturday 9th January 2011. Al-Qaida in Islamic Maghreb is believed to be responsible for the murders. It has been described by the French President Nicolas Sarkozy as a "cowardly and barbaric act", and he added that it strengthened France's resolve to "fight terrorist barbarism without respite".
On Friday 7th January, Antoine de Léocour and his best friend Vincent Delory were dining at Le Toulousain restaurant in the centre of Niamey when they were forced to enter in a 4x4 parked in front of the restaurant by four armed men. Niger troops and a French surveillance plane which had followed the kidnappers into the desert launched two attacks but held back for fear of the hostages being killed by stray bullets. One Niger commander was injured and a number of kidnappers were reported to have been killed during the two unsuccessful rescue operations. The two French men's bodies were then found near the desert border with Mali.
Antoine de Léocour, 25, had been living in Niger for two years and was planning to marry his fiancee on Saturday, and Vincent Delory, 25, had flown to the Niger capital, Niamey, to be best man at the wedding.
Five other French hostages kidnapped in Niger in September by AQIM are still thought to be held in Mali. The situation has remained extremely tense there since AQIM declared in July that Sarkozy had "opened the doors of hell". In retaliation to the French President's decision to make French troops join Mauritanian troops in a raid against an AQIM base in Mali, the captors killed a 78-year-old French aid worker they were holding.
As a consequence, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs advised all French nationals against travelling to the Sahel, explaining that these were now at very high risk of terrorist attacks lead by AQMI. And French people living in this area are asked to leave the zone.