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Spain says striving to find trio kidnapped in Algeria

Spain was doing all it could to find two nationals kidnapped from a refugee camp in western Algeria, Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jiminez assured Tuesday.

Speaking at a press conference in Rabat with his Moroccan counterpart Taib Fassi Fihri, Jiminez said Spain was “working hard with other governments in the region to get these hostages freed”.

Authorities still had no confirmation as to who was behind the kidnapping, said Jiminez, though the Polisario Front independence movement has pointed the finger at Al-Qaeda’s north African wing.

“We have some possibilities but, as minister, I am not in a position to talk about this,” she said.

“All the countries in this area have information — it is important to co-operate … Security must be tightened in all areas where there are foreign workers,” she warned, adding that Spain had asked for help from the United Nations in setting up a commission to tighten security in the region.

The two Spaniards — a woman and a man — were kidnapped from a camp near Hassi Rabuni in the Western Sahara region, home to the Polisario Front, along with an Italian woman.

Polisario said that Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) had taken the Europeans to AQIM camps in Mali, a claim which was rejected by a Mali government minister on Monday, who said there was “no trace” of the hostages in his country.

Spanish media identified the Spanish hostages as Ainhoa Fernandez de Rincon and Enric Gonyalons, who was believed to be wounded during the kidnapping.

The Italian foreign ministry identified the Italian as Rossella Urru, who works for the Italian Committee for the Development of Peoples.

Morocco, for a long time at odds with Algeria over Western Sahara, has laid the responsibility for kidnapping squarely on Algeria.

“One country is responsible for this and that country is Algeria,” said Fassi Fihri told journalists in Rabat.

“We condemn this even more since these countries affected are friends of Morocco,” he said, calling for increased regional co-operation to battle AQIM.

A former Spanish colony, Western Sahara was annexed by Morocco in 1975.

The Polisario Front, backed by Algeria, wants a referendum under the aegis of the United Nations on attachment to Morocco, independence or self-determination.

Morocco has proposed broad autonomy under its sovereignty and refuses to countenance any notion of independence, claiming that the Western Sahara is a historical part of its territory.