Hostages not yet freed by Al-Qaeda in north Africa: Spain

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Two Spanish nationals held hostage by Al-Qaeda's north African branch since November have not yet been released, as reported in the media, Spanish government official told AFP Sunday.

The government is working for "a happy conclusion" of the hostage-taking, the official said but added that the aid workers' release "has not yet taken place".

El Pais newspaper reported on its online edition citing its own government sources that Albert Vilalta, 35, and Roque Pascual, 50, captured in Mauritania on November 29, had been freed.

According to El Pais online "a Spanish plane is ready to fly to the area but the exact point of the handover is not known".

The newspaper added that the families of the hostages and the non-governmental organisation Accio Solidario to which they belong also did not have official confirmation of their release.

Earlier this month a Malian official had 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 the NGO the men worked for 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 third hostage, 39-year-old Alicia Gamez, in March.

© 2010 AFP

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