Niger denied on Wednesday it was holding two suspected militants believed to have been involved in the kidnapping and killing of two French nationals at the weekend, contradicting a previous report.
The official denial came the day after French Defence Minister Alain Juppe said two suspected militants connected to al Qaeda's North African wing (AQIM) had been handed to Niger authorities for questioning.
Four others were found dead after French special forces joined a failed attempt to rescue them in the West African state on Saturday.
Security sources in Niger told Reuters on Tuesday that Niger's gendarme police were holding two AQIM suspects but Interior Minister Ousmane Cisse told RFI radio denied this the next day.
No terrorists are being questioned by our (security) services, he said on Wednesday. The Niger services received in two phases from French authorities six dead bodies and two wounded, the latter two being Niger police officers.
We have not received any terrorists from French authorities that are alive, Cisse added.
French government spokesman Francois Baroin declined to comment on the apparent contradiction.