Kidnappers planned to sell Saudis to al-Qaeda

Arab World Materials 30 December 2009 15:01 (UTC +04:00)

An attempt in Niger to kidnap Saudi nationals, which left several of them dead, was apparently intended to sell the victims to al-Qaeda's branches in Africa, a regional newspaper reported.

The attack took place earlier this week in a desert area where rebel groups and al-Qaeda have set up bases, DPA reported.

The Saudi tourists had been hunting rare birds in Niger, when they were ambushed by gunmen. The hunters used their weapons in an effort to push back the attackers, the Saudi-owned al-Sharq al-Awsat reported.

A cross-border arms smuggler and a group of ethnic Arabs were said to be behind the kidnapping attempt, which left up to four Saudis dead and two wounded.

Three people have been arrested in connection to the attack, while trying to cross into Mali from Niger, local authorities said.

Security officials in Mauritania, where five Westerners have been kidnapped in the last month, have said in recent weeks they believe kidnapping victims have been taken to Mali.

The five consist of three Spanish aid workers and two Italians. Their exact whereabouts remain unknown. dpa yar sg ms

Osama bin Laden, the reported head of al-Qaeda, is a Saudi national and the organisation regularly issues threats against the kingdom.