PARIS/NOUAKCHOTT, (Reuters) – France and Mauritania said yesterday they carried out a military operation against al Qaeda’s North African wing, believed to be holding a 78-year-old French hostage in the desert Sahel region.
Mauritania said six Islamists were killed in the attack, but French officials said they had no word on the fate of Michel Germaneau, a retired engineer kidnapped on April 22 and held by al Qaeda’s North African wing, AQIM.
The dawn raid took place on Thursday amid calls for increased cooperation to tackle Islamists but it appears to have angered Mali, which was not involved, and Spain, which also has hostages held by another al Qaeda faction in the region.
The French Defence Ministry said the army gave technical and logistical support to Mauritanian forces in an operation to prevent an attack by AQIM against the West African state.
“The terrorist group targeted by the Mauritanian army is the one that executed a British hostage a year ago and has refused to give proof of life or engage in negotiations to release our compatriot Michel Germaneau,” the French ministry said.
It did not say whether the hostage had been located or where the military operation took place. But it said Mauritania’s action had “neutralised” the group.