Spanish Qaeda hostages freed in Mali: report
Two Spanish nationals held hostage by Al-Qaeda's North African branch since November have been freed and are on their way to the Mali-Burkina Faso border, Spanish media reported Monday.
Madrid declined to confirm the report, but a government source told El Pais daily that an official announcement would be made once the two aid workers Albert Vilalta, 35, and Roque Pascual, 50, were in a safe place.
"We are working for a happy conclusion of this case but the release has not yet taken place and therefore we ask all media to act carefully and responsibly," a government official told AFP on Sunday, shortly after the release was first reported.
The charity the men work for, Accio Solidaria, said on Monday morning they were waiting for official confirmation.
"We hope that during the course of the morning this bit of news will turn out to be positive," the aid group's head Francesc Osan told Spanish radio RNE.
Pascual and Vilalta were freed on Sunday around midday and were to be taken aboard all-terrain vehicles along with Burkina Faso presidential mediator and advisor Mustafa Chafi, El Pais said.
Earlier this month a Malian official said a radical cell of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which has executed two Western hostages, was threatening the lives of the two Spaniards, who are held by another branch of AQIM.
But Accio Solidaria said at the time the families had seen proof that the two were still alive and that negotiations for their release were continuing.
They were among three Accio Solidaria workers kidnapped in Mauritania last November and handed over to AQIM, the North African branch of Osama bin Laden's terror network, in exchange for payment.
AQIM released the other hostage, 39-year-old Alicia Gamez, in March.
© 2010 AFP