updated 12/16/2008 7:47:18 AM ET 2008-12-16T12:47:18

Tuareg rebels claim they have kidnapped a United Nations envoy to Niger.

In a statement on its Web site, the FFR rebel group said that it seized Canadian Robert Fowler and three others in an operation Monday.

The U.N. said Fowler along with his assistant and their driver went missing Sunday.

The rebels said the hostages are in good health. They said the hostages were taken to send a message to Canada which they claim is providing Niger's government with arms used against the local people.

The Tuareg nomads started their rebellion after claiming their desert people were being marginalized by the regime of President Mamadou Tandja.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Fowler as U.N. special envoy to Niger in July.

Moreon: Niger | Tuareg

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