The Salafist Brigade for Combat and Call has again been implicated in the abduction of Western nationals.
Security officials said the Salafist Brigade, regarded as an Al Qaida offshoot in Algeria, abducted five German nationals in
the Sahara Desert last week during a visit to the tourist village of Jant.
Jant is located in southern Algeria in the Alizi province about 1,800
kilometers south of Algiers.
Algerian security sources said the Germans, who had been led by a local
guide, were abducted on Nov. 17. The sources said the Salafist Brigade was
said to have carried out the kidnapping, but the group has not issued any
claim of responsibility.
On Nov. 22, Algerian police said the German tourists were located near
the border with Niger, Middle East Newsline reported. Algerian media said the Germans might have been
seeking to steal ancient artifacts.
In February 2003, the Salafist Brigade abducted 32 Europeans, about half
of them German nationals, in the southern Sahara. Six months later, the
Europeans, with the exception of one who died in captivity, were freed for a
reported $6 million ransom.
The sources said southern Sahara has been off-limits to foreigners.
They said the Algerian Tourist Ministry was informed of the arrival of the
Germans in Jant on the night of the abduction. The tourists were said to
have been kidnapped near their hotel.
Information regarding the fate of the German tourists has been
contradictory. An initial Algerian government communique said the tourists
were found in good condition 24 hours after their abduction in an
archaeological excavation near the border with Tunisia, more than 30
kilometers from Jant.
The statement on Nov. 20 said the Germans had been the target of a
massive search by security forces. Hours later, however, another statement
denied that the tourists were found.
On Nov. 21, Algerian police reiterated that the tourists were found.
Algerian media reported that the Germans would be prosecuted for attempting
to steal antiquities.