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22 Mar 2008 10:16
A son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadaffi is mediating over two Austrians held by al-Qaeda in North Africa and is hopeful they will be freed soon, an Austrian politician was quoted as saying.
Saif al-Islam, who heads the Gadaffi Foundation charity, has been in touch with the kidnappers, Carinthia governor Joerg Haider was quoted as telling the Austrian news agency APA late on Friday.
“Saif is negotiating with the kidnappers and in his own words he is hopeful that the whole thing will work out positively,” Haider said.
The captives, Andrea Kloiber (43) and Wolfgang Ebner (51) went missing while on holiday in Tunisia last month. The Algerian-based al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb said it seized them on February 22.
In web postings on Islamist forums, al-Qaeda has demanded a ransom and the liberation of 10 militants held in Algeria and Tunisia.
It set a deadline of midnight on Sunday for its demands to be met.
Malian military sources said the two were being held in Mali’s north-eastern Kidal region in the Sahara desert.
Saif al-Islam, whose foundation in 2000 helped free hostages held by Muslim rebels in the Philippines, is a regular visitor to Austria where he studied in the late 1990s, befriending Austrian right-wing populist Haider.
A retired former Austrian ambassador in Paris, Anton Prohaska, is in the Mali capital Bamako to try to free the hostages. - Reuters
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