Spanish hostages in Mali, Somalia 'are well'
Madrid - Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo on Monday said that two Spaniards held hostage in Mali and two others in Somalia are in good shape.
"In Somalia, they guaranteed to me that everything is fine. In Mali, it was the president of the republic [Amadou Toumani Toure] who gave me an assurance," Garcia-Margallo told the Cadena Cope radio station. "They are well."
"We haven't ceased for a single day to work for the release of the two aid workers whom we have in Mali and the two aid workers whom we have in Somalia," the minister added.
"We are in permanent contact, but this subject must be treated with total discretion."
Garcia-Margallo declined to give details of a trip he made to Mali at the end of last week in order to gather details on the hostage issue.
Two Spanish aid workers, a man and a woman, as well as an Italian woman, were kidnapped on October 23 2011 in the Tindouf region of southwestern Algeria, which is a stronghold of the Polisario Front independence movement in the neighbouring Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara.
The kidnappings were initially attributed by Polisario to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim), which has been highly active in Algeria, Mali, Niger and Mauritania since 2007, including taking hostages.
However, responsibility for the Tindouf kidnappings was in December claimed by a hitherto unknown armed group, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (Jamat Tawhid Wal Jihad Fi Garbi Afriqqiya).
The movement has made a ransom demand of $39.5m to release its three hostages, according to a source close to the mediators in Mali.
The two Spanish aid workers held in Somalia, both women, were abducted on October 13 2011, in Dadaab, the world's largest complex of refugee camps in eastern Kenya. The women, who work for Medecins sans frontieres (MSF - Doctors Without Borders), were taken across the border to Somalia by their kidnappers.