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. French journalist missing in Iraq
PARIS (AFP) Jan 06, 2005
French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie warned journalists Thursday to "listen to the voice of wisdom" and stay away from Iraq after a journalist from the daily Liberation went missing in Baghdad along with her Iraqi translator.

"We have had no news from Florence Aubenas in over 24 hours," nor of her assistant, Hussein Hanoun Al-Saadi, the Paris-based paper said.

Aubenas, 43, and Saadi left their Baghdad hotel early Wednesday but did not return and had not been seen since, it added.

The new drama followed the four-month captivity of French reporters Georges Malbrunot of Le Figaro newspaper and Christian Chesnot of Radio France Internationale, who were released by insurgents in Iraq on December 12.

"The situation in Iraq is extremely complex," Alliot-Marie said. "There are many different groups and the voice of wisdom, as Georges Malbrunot told journalists, is to avoid going to this country at the moment, and in any case to be extremely careful about what one does."

The kidnapping and murder of foreigners in Iraq has become a frequent occurrence as rebel groups there seek to oust US and other military forces. Malbrunot warned that the country was teeming with hostage-takers fishing for Westerners.

Alliot-Marie said the release of Malbrunot and Chesnot showed that French intelligence had a certain savoir-faire in the question of hostage-taking, and would be following up a number of leads.

The behind-the-scenes dealings by French diplomats and intelligence services that preceded their release are still shrouded in mystery.

Liberation said Aubenas, an experienced reporter who had covered conflicts in Rwanda, Kosovo, Algeria, Afghanistan, arrived in Baghdad on December 16.

The newspaper said it had alerted French, Iraqi and US officials.

The French foreign ministry stressed that it had already warned "all our nationals, including media representatives, to avoid going to Iraq given the current security risks in this country."

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