Four French nationals including an Areva employee who have been held captive in Niger by Al Qaeda's North African arm for over two years are in good health, France's foreign minister has told their relatives.
Speaking after a meeting with the hostages' families on 3 January, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said that he told them that "their loved ones were alive and healthy," even though they were being held in "very difficult" conditions.
Areva employee Daniel Larribe and his wife Francoise were among seven people kidnapped by Al Qaeda in The Islamic Magreb (AQIM) in Arlit, northern Niger, during the night of 15-16 September 2010. Five employees of Satom, a subsidiary of the Vinci construction group, were also kidnapped.
While Francoise Larribe and two Satom employees were released in February 2011, her husband and three Satom workers have remained in captivity. A video of the four French nationals was released by AQIM in September 2012.
Fabius said, "As frustrating as it may be, the treatment of cases of kidnapping in fact requires the utmost discretion, in the interests of efficiency and in the interest of the hostages." However, he confirmed to the hostages' relatives that they are being properly fed and have access to medical treatment. The hostages, Fabius added, had earlier been given letters written to them by their families.
"Like all of us, I share the anxiety and impatience of the families in these difficult times," Fabius commented. However, he said that the French president, government and businesses were "determined to secure the release of the hostages and their return to France as quickly as possible."
Areva is the primary shareholder in the companies that manage two uranium mines in Niger's Arlit region and is also working to start operations at the Imouraren mine. Most of its 2400 employees in the country are Nigerien.
Both Areva and Vinci have stepped up security measures for their employees in the area, and are working closely with the Nigerien and French authorities to free the remaining hostages.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News