DAKAR, Senegal - To kidnap seven foreigners from inside their homes, al-Qaida-linked gunmen in northern Niger forced their way past the security cordon of one of the world's most heavily guarded mining towns.

PARIS - French President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed on Wednesday to mobilize his government to free five French people abducted last week by an al-Qaida affiliate in Niger, calling it a "very serious and worrying affair," according to a government spokesman.

BAMAKO, Mali - France's interior minister is in the West African nation of Mali, where authorities believe al-Qaida-linked militants have brought seven kidnapped foreigners.

PARIS - The office of France's interior minister says he has left for Mali and plans to discuss the hostage-taking of seven foreign workers in neighboring Niger with Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure.

PARIS - Al-Qaida's North Africa branch has claimed responsibility for kidnapping five French nationals near a uranium mine deep in the desert of the African nation of Niger, an audio message broadcast Tuesday said.
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