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Last Updated: Saturday, 7 July 2007, 16:20 GMT 17:20 UK
Chinese worker abducted in Niger
members of the Tuareg-led MNJ rebel group in Niger
Rebels say nomadic groups are marginalised by the government
A rebel group in northern Niger has kidnapped a Chinese national working for a uranium company.

The man was captured on Friday in the Ingall region, south of the town of Agadez.

The Tuareg rebels from the Niger Movement for Justice (MNJ) demanded that Chinese mining companies stop their activities in the desert region.

China's embassy in Niger on Saturday confirmed the abduction, but said the rebels had not yet been in contact.

The MNJ said the kidnap was meant as a warning to Chinese companies cooperating with the Niger government and army, and that they do not intend to harm the captive.

'War zone'

"This region has been declared a war zone by the government and in this situation we cannot allow the Chinese to continue extracting natural resources while civilians are being killed," a Paris-based spokesman for the rebel group told Reuters news agency.

The spokesman also said Ingall, an oasis famed for its salty plains, was an inappropriate place for the Chinese to be working because of its cultural importance to nomadic herders.

Since February, the MNJ has carried out attacks on military targets in the area.

The rebels, who say they are marginalised by the government, have also raided uranium mines.

The north of Niger is rich in uranium and the country is one of the world's top five uranium producers.

The MNJ says peace will not return to the area without better integration of Tuaregs into the army, paramilitary corps and the local mining sector.

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