Algerian President visits Austria; says European hostages in Sahara are still alive
Fifteen European tourists being held in an isolated area of the Sahara Desert by an armed group are still alive, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said on Tuesday.
"At this point in time, I can tell you that the hostages are alive," said Bouteflika who was beginning a two-day official visit to Austria.
He said the Algerian authorities were prepared to allow the kidnappers a safe passage out of the country if they were to release their hostages, AFP reported.
He added Algeria would consult Germany before making any decisions concerning their release. Ten Germans are among the 15 being held in the group that includes four Swiss and a Dutchman. It is thought they are being held in a section of the desert close to the border with Libya.
They disappeared after setting off on tours in the Algerian Sahara between mid-February and mid-March. Bouteflika once again criticized the tourists for not going through specialized travel agencies before venturing into the more inaccessible parts of the desert. "It's a bit like getting into a rowing boat to cross the ocean," he said.
Seventeen other European tourists also disappeared, but were rescued by Algerian security forces on May 13. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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