A three-day ultimatum which begun at midnight on Thursday was posted on an islamist web site from the Maghreb al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is demanding the release of its members from Algerian and Tunesian prisons within three days.
Speaking to the press in Brussels Austrian Chancellor, Alfred Gusenbauer said he did not intend to yield to the demands of the kidnappers within three days and that the hostages should be released “unconditionally”. “Austria” he said “is a peaceful country” that has good relations with all . He also also said the priority remains the health of the hostages.
Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, Thursday, reiterated Autria’s inability to comply with the demands made by the hostage-takers as their demands were out of Vienna’s jurisdiction, although efforts were being made to secure the release of hostages.
The kidnappers and their hostages were spotted earlier on in the border towns of Tebessa and Oued Souf, in the south eastern part of Algeria, where the army had been deployed to search, according to an algerian daily, Annahar, adding that the crossing could have lasted at least four days.
Andrea Kloiber, 44 years, and Wolfgang Ebner, a 51 year old consultant, abducted from Tunesia February 22, were driven through a part of Algeria considered as a “hot” zone, a heavily armed islamist area .
The “hot” zone has been thoroughly combed through for four weeks now, by the Algerian military and heavy tracking is still being carried on in the mountaineous region of Oum Kmakem, according to sources.
In an audio message accompanying the photos, the islamist group warns tourists to stay away from Tunesia, algeria, Morocco and Mauritania. Also, according to a video recording broadcast Monday, the Maghreb Al Quaïda spokesperson called Tunesia an “apostate” state while warning foreign tourists to stay away.