Monday, March 24, 2008

Austrian Hostages: Deadline passes

No word on their present status.

A deadline set by the Algerian-based al-Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Mahgreb for the payment of a ransom for two Austrian hostages has expired but Vienna says it hopes negotiations will continue. The Austrian tourists, 51-year-old Wolfgang Ebner and 44-year-old Andrea Kloiber, were kidnapped on 22 February while on holiday in northern Tunisia and are now believed to be in northern Mali. Austrian diplomats have been negotiating with the Malian authorities for the past week.
Further negotiations are being complicated by the outbreak of fighting between Tuareg rebels and the Mali Army on the Algerian border. Oddly enough, Libyan leader Khaddafy is now backing away from earlier claims of negotiation for the hostages release:

As far as the hostages’ crisis, the charity association of Gadhafi has surprised observers and the hostages’ family members while saying in a communiqué issued yesterday: “neither the association, nor its president Saif Al-Islam Gadhafi have set either direct or indirect contacts with the abductors of the two Austrian hostages being kidnapped in Tunisia last month.”
I hope this doesn't mean that things have gone south in a big way and Khaddafy is now distancing himself from the situation.