Freed Spanish aid workers due in Burkina Faso

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Two Spanish aid workers who were held hostage for nine months by Al-Qaeda's North African branch are expected in Ouagadougou, a security official in the capital of Burkina Faso said Monday.

A helicopter carrying the two freed men, Roque Pascual and Albert Vilalta, was due in Ouagadougou around 2:00 pm (1400 GMT) but "their arrival has been delayed because of a refuelling" stop, the official said at the airport.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero announced earlier Monday in a brief televised statement that the two had been freed in neighbouring Mali "after spending 268 days in the hands of their kidnappers".

He said they were to arrive in Barcelona late on Monday on a special flight accompanied by close relatives and Secretary of State for Cooperation Soraya Rodriguez.

A Malian government minister said the two men were escorted out of Mali via a specially secured route.

Their release comes after the August 16 transfer from Mauritania to Mali of the kidnap mastermind, Malian national Omar Sid'Ahmed Ould Hamma, who had been jailed for 12 years by a Mauritanian court.

© 2010 AFP

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