Thursday, July 10, 2008

al Qaeda's Austrian hostages - doing very poorly.

God bless them, the Austrian tourists who have been held by al Qaeda of the Islamic Magreb are still out there. Kidnapped on 3/1o, the latest report on their condition that I could find was from July 4.

One of the two Austrians kidnapped by Al-Qeada in February is "doing very poorly," a Malian source close to the negotiations to free the hostages said Friday.

"One of the two hostages is doing very poorly. He should be placed under medical supervision urgently," a Malian official who wanted to remain anonymous told AFP.

He would not say which one of the hostages was ill or what his ailment was. One of the kidnap victims, Wolfgang Ebner, 51, told his son he was suffering from cholera and malaria when he spoke to him on the telephone in mid-June. The phone call was the first sign of life of the hostages in 110 days.

Their status:

The hostages "could have been freed" some 10 days ago "but something didn't work out," the Malian official said without giving details.

The kidnappers initially demanded the release of a number of Islamic extremists imprisoned in Algeria and Tunisia in exchange for the hostages.

They later asked for the withdrawal of Austrian troops from Afghanistan and the release of two Islamic militants jailed in Vienna.

Another source close to the negotiations said a five million euro (7.9 million dollars) ransom was also being sought.