Al-Qaeda says it has killed French Sahara hostage

French authorities yesterday said they were trying to verify the claim, made by the head of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in an audio statement broadcast by Al-Jazeera.

"We announce that we executed the French hostage Michel Germaneau on Saturday July 24, 2010, to avenge the killing of our six brothers in the cowardly French raid," on Thursday, AQIM chief Abu Musab Abdul Wadud said.

"(French President Nicolas) Sarkozy failed to free his compatriot in this operation but he has, without any doubt, opened for his people and for his country one of the gates of hell," Wadud warned.

"In a rapid and just response to the ignoble actions of France, we announce that we have executed the French hostage."

In Paris, the French presidency said it had received "no confirmation" of the killing of Germaneau, who was kidnapped in Niger on April 19, adding that it was trying to verify the claim.

Sarkozy called a crisis meeting of his inner cabinet today.

As well as Sarkozy, the 9:00 am meeting would include Prime Minister  Francois Fillon, Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Defence Minister Herve Morin, the president's office announced.

But one senior French official who asked not to be named told AFP yesterday that Paris was convinced that Germaneau had "been dead for several weeks."

On May 14, his abductors issued a photo of an exhausted-looking Germaneau, together with a taped message in which he appealed to Sarkozy to work for his release.

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