Spain: We have no contact with hostages in Mauritania

2nd December 2009, Comments 0 comments

Spain’s ambassador in Mauritania says they have had no contact with the kidnapped volunteers and therefore can’t confirm reports that they have been freed.

Nouakchott – Spanish authorities have had no contact with three Spanish volunteers kidnapped in Mauritania by suspected Al-Qaeda militants over the weekend, Spain's ambassador here said Tuesday.

Ambassador Alonso Dezcallar y Mazarredo refused to comment on reports that the hostages had been found close to Nouakchott Tuesday.

There were also conflicting reports from Morocco over the fate of the three, who are feared to have been kidnapped by the hardline Al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) -- the north African branch of Osama bin Laden's Islamist network.

"We cannot confirm nor deny reports that the hostages have been freed," the ambassador told a press conference. "We have not had contact with them since the kidnapping."

The diplomat refused to give details about the search for the kidnappers and their hostages, saying it could endanger the lives of the volunteers and hamper rescue operations.

"Our priority is the security of the hostages and getting them out alive," Dezcallar y Mazarredo said.

Speaking later Tuesday, a Moroccan security source announced that the three had been abandoned by their kidnappers in the Aguouimite region, a buffer zone located between northern Mauritania and southern Western Sahara.

But this was promptly denied by a Moroccan government official.

"This information is pure speculation," the official source told AFP in Rabat.

The volunteers' humanitarian organisation Barcelona Accio Solidaria announced earlier that its aid convoy will continue under military protection.

"The solidarity caravan will continue on to Senegal and The Gambia, we will leave tomorrow (Wednesday)," spokesman Josep Ramon Gimenez told journalists at the Spanish embassy in Nouakchott.

"The embassy has gotten the pledge from the Mauritanian government that they will ensure our safe passage to the border. Soldiers will be accompanying us," he added.

The three Spanish volunteers, two men and a women, 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.

Spain's top criminal court has opened a probe into the abductions, a court spokeswoman in Madrid said Tuesday.

AFP / Expatica

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