Austria in contact with al Qaeda hostages in Mali
Austria's government is in touch with two Austrian hostages and their al Qaeda kidnappers through authorities in Mali, an Austrian mediator was quoted as saying. ( Reuters )
Envoy Anton Prohaska told Austrian daily Oesterreich in an interview to be published on Wednesday: "The Mali presidency has arranged the involvement of various groups and contact people."
Asked whether he was in touch with the hostages and their kidnappers, Prohaska said: "Contact is taking place via local authorities."
The captives, Andrea Kloiber, 43, and Wolfgang Ebner, 51, went missing while on holiday in Tunisia last month and the Algerian-based al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb said it had seized them.
They are thought to be held in Mali's remote northeastern Kidal region.
Prohaska, a retired former Austrian ambassador to France, said in Bamako: "There is no doubt that Mali is doing all it can to resolve the matter speedily and with a view to the security of the hostages."
He did not confirm media reports that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was mediating and had spoken by phone to Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer.
Al Qaeda has demanded a ransom and the liberation of 10 militants held in Algeria and Tunisia. It had set a deadline of midnight last Sunday for its demands to be met, but has extended this by a week.