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At least seven French hostages held abroad, in Africa

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

At least seven French citizens are still held hostage abroad -- all in Africa -- after the release on Friday of seven members of a French family who were kidnapped in Cameroon in February.

The abductions are all claimed by Islamist groups, with among their number, at least six by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in the Sahel, the semi-arid belt south of the Sahara desert that stretches across a swathe of western Africa.

An eighth hostage was reported executed last March in Mali by AQIM, but his death has not been confirmed.

- NIGER

On September 16, 2010, kidnappers abduct five French people, a Togolese and a Madagascan, mostly working for 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 and the French authorities say they are still alive.

- 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 March 19, 2013 AQIM announces that it has killed Verdon, though Paris has not confirmed the report. However, on March 28, French President Francois Hollande says that the signs are that Verdon is dead.

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 extremist group 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/130419/at-least-seven-french-hostages-held-abroad-africa