Libya mediated Mali hostage release

Libya played a role in mediating the release of 14 European tourists held by Algerian rebels in the Sahara desert for more than five months.

    The world waits for the hostages

    Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi's son Saif al-Islam told the Berlin daily Tagesspiegel on Tuesday that the Qadhafi foundation helped mediate the release of nine Germans, four Swiss and one Dutchman.

    The foundation, headed by Saif al-Islam, also mediated the freeing of German hostages held on the Philippines' Jolo island in July 2000 by the Abu Sayyaf group.

    At the time, the Foundation gave "development aid" to the kidnappers, with German media saying it totalled a million dollars a head for the three hostages and that Berlin gave Tripoli "compensation" for its services.

    Saif al-Islam said this time there had been no payments but "political contacts with the kidnappers".

    Release confirmed 

    Mali’s presidency spokesperson Seydou Sissouma said on Monday in the capital Bamako that all the hostages had been released.

    German Deputy Foreign Minister Juergen Chrobog, on his second trip in a week to the impoverished country to try to free the hostages, said they were expected in the city on Tuesday.

    Sissouma did not say exactly where the hostages were, but said they were in Malian custody. A Malian minister said earlier that the group would first be taken to the border town of Tessalit before being flown to Gao and then on to Bamako.

    Optimism had surged for the release of the adventure holidaymakers after a flurry of diplomatic activity, but then dimmed after a German plane sent to wait on standby in northern Mali returned without them.

    The 14 were among 32 Europeans seized in separate incidents in February and March while travelling in Southern Algeria, famous for ancient grave sites, but also notorious for smuggling and banditry.

    Algerian commandos freed 17 of the prisoners in May after killing their kidnappers, who Algeria said belonged to the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat which is

     fighting for the creation of an Islamist state.

    Freeing tourists

    Germany's Chrobog negotiates
    prisoner release

    Diplomatic sources said it would not have been possible to pick up the hostages after dark from the location where they were being held.

    Another German plane is on standby in Bamako to fly the tourists back to Europe.

    After commandos freed the first batch of tourists, the remaining hostages were moved to neighbouring Mali, officials said.

    German and Malian negotiators made contact with the kidnappers in Mali, who German media reports said wanted about $5 million for each hostage, along with security guarantees.  

    The kidnappings were a setback for oil-rich Algeria, which had seen a sharp fall in rebel attacks and a return to foreign tourism and investment after a decade of violence.

    More than 100,000 people were killed after the cancellation of 1992 elections which Islamists were poised to win.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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