Elite Algerian soldiers look for remaining 15 European tourists held by militant group
Elite Algerian troops hunted the Sahara on Thursday for 15 European tourists still missing after 17 adventure holidaymakers were earlier freed in a desert gunbattle with a guerrilla group accused of links to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
Military sources and Algerian newspapers said the remaining 10 Germans, four Swiss and one Dutchman were being held in caves in the south by a second cell of the Algerian Islamist group, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC).
Authorities are worried news of the rescue of 17 tourists on Tuesday may have alerted those holding the remaining hostages. "The whole terrorist operation, which started off well organized, has recently disintegrated, so it's very possible the second GSPC group is not in contact with anyone anymore," a diplomatic source said, according to Reuters. The rebels demanded money for the hostages, the source said.
A military source in the city of Illizi, some 1,200 km south of the capital Algiers, said troops had not yet attacked the second hideout believed to be close to the southern Tuareg city.
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