French soldiers joined the Mali army Friday in the hunt for two French geologists who were kidnapped by an armed gang this week, an Agence France Presse journalist reported.
The two hostages were seized from their hotel in the eastern village of Hombori near the border with Niger early Thursday, in an assault bearing the hallmark of al-Qaida linked Islamist militants.
The AFP journalist saw about a dozen of the French soldiers near Hombori.
They had been dispatched from a nearby town where they are involved in training elite Mali soldiers, to join the local army in trying to track down the captives.
Thursday's kidnapping, the latest in a series of abductions of foreigners, was believed to be the of work al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), but there has as yet been no claim of responsibility.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe on Thursday confirmed that the men had been taken "in circumstances that were not yet clear".
The latest kidnap brings to six the number of French hostages in the restive Sahel area, with AQIM still holding four nationals abducted in Niger in September 2010.
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