Al Qaida-aligned group kidnaps German tourists in Sahara

Friday, November 26, 2004

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.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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