Mauritania doing everything to free hostages
A Spanish official praises the role of the Mauritanian government for making a huge effort to free the three kidnapped Spanish hostages.Nouakchott – A Spanish government official who met with Mauritania's president told journalists that Nouakchott was doing "everything possible" to free three Spanish hostages, official media reported Wednesday.
"We can say that they are doing everything possible" to free the Spanish nationals who were kidnapped at gunpoint Sunday, Spanish State Secretary of Rural Environment Josep Puxeu told the state-owned news agency AMI after his meeting with President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz on Tuesday evening.
According to AMI, the Spanish official praised the role of the Mauritanian government "which made a huge effort in the last two days" to reach a happy outcome. Puxeu stressed that he believed that would be possible.
On Wednesday, a government statement on national radio said Wednesday that the Mauritania President has fired his police chief following the kidnappings of three Spanish aid workers.
The statement did not specify reasons for the firing of General Ahmed Ould Bekrine, who was seen as an ally of the president when he took power in a coup last year. He had recently been promoted to the rank of general.
He will be replaced by Colonel N'Diaga Dieng, who was previously secretary general of the national defence ministry.
On Wednesday several media reported that the hostages had been moved to northern Mali by the kidnappers, quoting seemingly the same high-ranking security source, but the reports could not be verified by AFP.
The security official, who also contacted AFP, said the kidnappers were mercenaries from other African countries working for Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
The three Spanish volunteers, two men and a woman, were travelling in a convoy delivering humanitarian aid to west Africa when they were kidnapped on Sunday.
They have been named as Albert Vilalta, 35, Alicia Gamez, 35, and Roque Pascual, 50.
The kidnapping, for which nobody has yet claimed responsibility, came three days after a French national was snatched in neighbouring Mali. Malian and Western security forces say the Frenchman is being held by a hardline faction within Al-Qaeda's north African branch.
AFP / Expatica