Spain evacuates two citizens from Mali over kidnap risk
Spain arranged the emergency evacuation of two of its citizens in northern Mali seen as a risk for kidnapping by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, humanitarian and government sources said Thursday.
"Two Spanish nationals were heading to the far north of Mali. According to Spain they ran a high risk of kidnapping by AQMI. Therefore Spain has quickly organised their evacuation," a humanitarian source in northern Mali told AFP.
According to the same source the risk of kidnapping of the humanitarian workers was "imminent".
The date of the evacuation was not specified, nor the current location of the Spaniards.
"It's true. Their country contacted us to facilitate their speedy repatriation," said a government source contacted in the north of the country.
Three Spanish aid workers were abducted in November 2009 by AQMI in Mauritania and later transferred to Mali. A female hostage was released in March and the other two in August of last year.
The North African branch of Al-Qaeda operates in a vast desert area across Algeria, Mauritania, Mali and Niger, where it carries out attacks, trafficking and kidnapping of Westerners.
On January 7, AQMI members kidnapped two young Frenchmen from a restaurant in Niamey, the Niger capital. They died the following day near the border with Mail as troops from Niger and France tried to rescue them.
The group still holds five French hostages, a Togolese and a Madagascan, abducted last September from a uranium mine in northern Niger.
© 2011 AFP