An Italian and two Spaniards who were kidnapped in Algeria on October 23, are reportedly alive and being held by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a mediator told AFP. The mediator also indicated that a demand for the hostages will be made in the near future.
The kidnapping occurred when unarmed AQIM militants entered entered the Sahrawi refugee camp in Tindouf, western Algeria, where sympathizers of the Polisario Front gave them weapons and helped them locate the Europeans, who were working at the camp.
AQIM, which has its roots in Algeria, has camps in Mali which it uses as a launchpad to carry out armed attacks and kidnappings in the Sahel desert region where the group is also involved in arms and drugs trafficking.
COMMENT: Spanish media identified the Spanish hostages as Ainhoa Fernandez de Rincon and Enric Gonyalons, the latter of whom was believed to be wounded during the kidnapping. The Italian foreign ministry identified the Italian as Rossella Urru, who works for the Italian Committee for the Development of Peoples (CISP).
Al-Qaeda's North African franchise, which has not officially claimed the kidnapping, is currently holding four French citizens kidnapped in northern Niger in September 2010.