Tunisian authorities have launched a search operation after two Austrian tourists missing and believed kidnapped by Al Qaeda. In an audio tape aired Al-Jazeera network, Al Qaeda spokesman Salah Abu Mohammad said the pair were abducted on February 22 and were in good condition.
Austrian media outlets have identified the tourists as Andrea Kloiber, 43, and Wolfgang Ebner, 51 - a couple from near Salzburg.
The Alqaeda spokesman warned other Western tourists to stay away from Tunisia. Western tourists were "searching for pleasures in Tunisia while our people in Gaza are being slaughtered by the Jews with consent from Western countries whose governments are killing our brothers in every [Islamic] country," he said, according to Reuters.
The Tunisian authorities said they had conducted in vain "intense searches, combing the area by land and from the air" upon learning of the missing Austrians. They confirmed that the couple had arrived at the port of La Goulette-Tunis on February 10 from Genoa in Italy for a tour of the Saharan region. "The authorities have begun carrying out intensive search operations by land and air," a government statement said, adding the two were last heard of crossing the Sahara in a direction that would have taken them beyond Tunisian borders.