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US condemns 'heinous' killing of French hostage

The United States on Monday condemned Al-Qaeda's execution of a French hostage in the Sahara desert as a "heinous and cowardly act."

This handout picture released on July 23 by the city of Marcoussis, south of Paris, shows French Enmilal aid group member Michel Germaneau, in 2007. The United States on Monday condemned Al-Qaeda's execution of Germanceau in the Sahara desert as a "heinous and cowardly act."

"We stand ready to assist the French government in any way that we can," the State Department said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed Monday to avenge the murder of 78-year-old French aid worker, Michel Germaneau, who was kidnapped in April in Niger where he was helping to build a school.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) declared it had killed Germaneau as revenge after French and Mauritanian soldiers stormed one of the group's camps in Mali and killed six militants.

In Mali, a local elected official told AFP that Germaneau had been beheaded after the raid, in the presence of Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, the leader of an AQIM cell that has been blamed for killing a Briton in 2009.

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