Three European aid workers kidnapped nearly 10 months ago from a Saharawi refugee camp in Algeria were released safe and sound in Mali, sources in the Spanish government told Efe on Wednesday.
Spaniards Ainhoa Fernandez de Rincon and Enric Gonyalons and Italian national Rosella Urru were abducted Oct. 23 from a facility near the Algerian town of Tindouf where foreign aid workers are lodged.
The abductions were carried out by a branch of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the captives were taken to northern Mali, an area now effectively under the control of Tuareg separatists.
The Spanish official sources declined to disclose exactly where the hostages were freed, saying only that Madrid dispatched a plane to collect the three aid workers.
A spokesman for the radical Islamic group Ansar al Din, Sanda Uld, said the freed captives were already in the hands of mediators from Burkina Faso, while Spanish officials highlighted the cooperation of governments in the region.
Mauritania's ANI news agency reported Wednesday that a prisoner whose release was demanded by the captors of the aid workers was recently transferred from a jail in Nouakchott to an unknown location.
Even so, Ansar al Din's Uld told Efe that Fernandez, Gonyalons and Urru were freed without conditions.
Efforts to secure the release of the hostages became more complicated after March's military coup in Mali, according to Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, who said authorities had been "very close" to a solution before the change of government. EFE