The French defense minister says France wants to get in contact with al—Qaeda’s North African wing over the hostage—taking of five French nationals and two Africans in Niger.

Herve Morin says France has “every reason” to believe that the seven are alive, and have “very probably” been taken to northern Mali.

He told French radio RTL on Thursday that France is awaiting demands from al—Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings last week near a French—run uranium mine in Niger.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has called the abductions a “very serious and worrying affair.” The French military has flown reconnaissance jets over the Sahara to search for the hostages.

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