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Missing tourists may be hostages for release of terrorists

Posted by Thomas Nephew on April 18th, 2003

Based on reports by Austrian news magazine “profil”, the German daily Die Welt is reporting that Algerian officials are in contact with kidnappers of at least some of the tourists who have gone missing in the Sahara over the past month:

The goal is apparently to force the release of four Algerian extremists recently sentenced in Frankfurt for planning an attack on the Strassburg Christmas Market. The German foreign ministry did not want to comment. “Nothing is being ruled out” in the investigation and all leads are being persued, a spokesman said. Officially, all countries involved are still viewing kidnapping only as a possible scenario about the tourists’ whereabouts.

The missing tourists include fifteen Germans — who are reportedly separated from the other tourists. Die Welt speculates that this indicates the action is specifically directed against Germany.

The remaining missing persons include ten Austrians, four Swiss, one Dutch person, and one Swede. Die Welt also reports that the elite GSG-9 anti-terror unit is already in Algeria to assist with the investigation.

The four Islamic extremists were convicted on March 10 to ten to twelve year sentences for the planned bombing, which was to have taken place in December 2000. There was no proof of a connection to Al Qaeda.

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