Missing Europeans in Algeria held hostage by terrorists: report

An Algerian terrorist group with links to al-Qaeda is holding hostage the 31 European tourists who disappeared in the Sahara desert weeks ago.

The tourists were kidnapped as human shields because the terrorists feared a clampdown by the authorities, the Austrian weekly Profil magazine reports in its latest edition, due out Monday. Fifteen Germans, 10 Austrians, four Swiss, a Dutchman and a Swede travelling in at least seven separate groups are missing in the southern Sahara, an area frequented by smugglers, drug runners and a militant group linked to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network. Some have not been heard of since February. Profil said it was highly likely the tourists were being held some 80 kilometres (50 miles) from the town of Illizi, some 1,700 kilometres southeast of Algiers. It said the kidnappers were members of a terror group led by Mokhtar Benmokhtar, a group which threatened to attack participants in the Paris-Dakar rally a few years ago and has recently taken in al-Qaeda members who fled from Libya. The Algerian authorities have on several occassions made contact with the kidnappers, who have so far set no ransom for releasing the tourists, according to the report. Full Story

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