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MAURITANIA: Al-Qaida claims French Mali hostage killed

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image Frenchman Philippe Verdon, a hostage in Mali

A Mauritanian-based website said that al-Qaida’s North African branch has executed a French hostage in retaliation for France’s military intervention in northern Mali.
In Paris, a French Foreign Ministry official said the government is aware of the report and is investigating. The hostage’s father said he has not received confirmation of the death.
The Nouakchott Information Agency, or ANI, posted the report late Tuesday. The ANI website is frequently used by al-Qaida’s North African chapter to post messages. It was not possible to independently verify the execution claim.
Fifteen French people are captive in the region, among them a family of seven including four children who were seized in Cameroon a month ago. French troops launched a campaign in January to help Mali’s embattled government drive out Islamic militants who had seized control of the northern half of the country. The campaign has raised fears of retaliation against French citizens — especially the captives.
ANI quoted a man who identified himself as Ghairawani, a spokesman for al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, as saying the group’s fighters had executed one of the French hostages, Philippe Verdon, on March 10.
Verdon was kidnapped with another Frenchman, Serge Lazarevic, from their hotel room in Hombori in eastern Mali in November 2011. Their families have said they were in the region to study setting up a cement factory there. AP

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