Authorities in the Mali town of Gao said the captors belonging to an Islamist group released the hostages in the northeastern region of Kidal.

The release brought to end a painfully long ordeal, that repeatedly hit global headlines.

The 14 hostages were the last of the 32 European tourists abducted in February and March by suspected members of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) as they travelled through Algeria's Sahara deserts.

The GSPC is said to have links with the al-Qaeda.

Seventeen of the hostages were freed by Algerian commandos in May while a German woman died of heatstroke.

The latest release came after strenous negotiations with the hostage takers.

Earlier reports suggested the captors were demanding a ransom of some $5.5 million for each person.

It was also speculated that Amar Saifi, an Algerian army renegade was the leader of the abductors.

Despite best attempts, the authorities had found it difficult to free the hostages.

Straddling several countries, the Sahara spans more than 800,000 square miles and policing it is a near impossible task.