Niger police hunt for hostages thought to be French
Two Westerners were kidnapped by gunmen in a bar in Niamey, capital of Niger, on Friday, a Niger security source and a witness said.
“Two Westerners, who are probably French, were kidnapped from a bar at around 10:30 (p.m.). Armed men in turbans took them into a car,” the source said, adding that the two victims were male.
A Reuters witness said Niger security forces were deployed to the bar soon after the incident, which was confirmed by a foreign diplomat and witness Aime Ebanga, who was in the bar at the time.
“They pointed a weapon at them and forced them out the door. They put them in a four-wheel drive with tinted windows,” Ebanga told Reuters at the bar, “Le Toulousain”.
It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the kidnapping but a number of Westerners have been kidnapped in Niger over the last few years, often ending up in the hands of the Sahara-based North African wing of al Qaeda, AQIM.
Previous attacks have taken place further to the north, where the influence of the Niamey government is weaker and a mix of rebels and local bandits has long operated.
Most of the hostages have been released after demands are made and, analysts say, millions of dollars in ransom payments paid, even though officials never confirm money changes hands. Reuters