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Fifteen French hostages held abroad, all in Africa

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The kidnapping of seven French tourists from one family in northern Cameroon on Tuesday brings to 15 the number of French hostages held abroad, all on African soil.

Among their number, at least six are held by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in the Sahel region, the semi-arid belt south of the Sahara desert that stretches across a swathe of western Africa.

The seven latest hostages, three adults and four children, were abducted by unidentified men at Cameroon's border with Nigeria.

French President Francois Hollande said that the tourists were seized by a Nigerian "terrorist group that we know well", and that the hostages would probably be taken to Nigeria.

Here is a breakdown of the other abductions of French hostages, all of which occurred before France's military intervention in Mali on January 11.

- NIGER

On September 16, 2010, kidnappers abduct five French, a Togolese and a Madagascan, mostly working for the French public nuclear giant Areva and its subcontractor Satom, in a uranium mining region of Niger.

AQIM claims the kidnapping on September 21.

A French woman hostage -- Francoise Larribe -- who is ill, is freed along with the Togolese and the Madagascan in February 2011.

The four other French hostages -- Thierry Dol, Daniel Larribe, Pierre Legrand and Marc Feret -- are still in AQIM's hands.

- MALI

On the night of November 24, 2011, Frenchmen Serge Lazarevic and Philippe Verdon are kidnapped from their hotel in Hombori in northeastern Mali, where they were on a business trip, according to their families.

AQIM claims responsibility and publishes their photographs on December 9.

On August 10, 2012, Verdon speaks of "difficult living conditions" and health problems, in a video distributed by Mauritanian website Sahara Medias.

On November 20, 2012, Gilberto Rodriguez Leal, a 61-year-old Portuguese-born French citizen, is abducted by at least six armed men in Diema, western Mali, as he is travelling by car from Mauritania.

On the 22, Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist rebel group the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) claims responsibility.

On January 26, 2013, MUJAO says it is ready to negotiate Leal's release.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault dismisses "the logic of blackmail".

- NIGERIA

On December 19, 2012, French engineer Francis Collomp, 63, is kidnapped by around 30 armed men who attack the residence of the company for which he is working in the state of Katsina, in northern Nigeria on the border with Niger.

The hostage takers kill two bodyguards and a neighbour.

The act is claimed by the Nigerian radical Islamist group Ansaru, which has links to Boko Haram. It says it is reacting to France's preparations for a military intervention in Mali.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130219/fifteen-french-hostages-held-abroad-all-africa