Spanish hostages in Mali: the road to freedom

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Two Spanish nationals held hostage by Al-Qaeda's North African branch since November have been freed, the Spanish government announced Monday.

Here are the main developments since they were abducted, with a third Spaniard, in November 2009 in Mauritania.


- Nov 29: Three Spanish volunteers, two men and a woman, from the Barcelona-based non-governmental organisation Accio Solidaria, are abducted in Mauritania.

- Dec 8: Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claims the abduction in an audio recording broadcast by Al-Jazeera television channel.


- Jan 15: The Spanish government has been able to see a video proving that the three Spaniards, being held in northern Mali, are alive, according to the Spanish daily El Mundo.

- March 10: AQIM frees Alicia Gamez. Albert Vilalta and Roque Pascual are still held captive in northern Mali.

- March 12: AQIM demands a ransom of five million dollars (3.7 million euros) and the liberation of Islamists being held in Mauritania in return for the two remaining hostages, according to the daily El Pais.

- March 29: The mastermind of the abduction, Omar Sid'Ahmed Ould Hamma, otherwise known as "Omar the Sahrawi", arrested in February at Mauritania's border with Mali, is charged and detained. On July 21 he is condemned to 12 years in prison.

- Aug 16: The families of the two Spaniards receive proof that the hostages are alive, according to Accio Solidaria.

- Aug 17: Mali's Hamma is extradited from Mauritania to his own country.

- Aug 22: El Pais, quoting government sources, says that the two aid workers have been freed.

- Aug 23: The two Spaniards are freed, the Spanish government announces.

© 2010 AFP

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