Algerian driver released by hostage takers in Niger

Friday, April 30, 2010

An Algerian driver has been released by his hostage takers in Niger. The man was abducted on April 20 along with a French tourist he was driving.

The Frenchman, who is in his 70s, is still being held hostage; the pair were taken at gunpoint near the Mali and Algerian boarders. The gunmen are reported to have links to al-Qaeda.

It is reported that the driver was released in the last few days and has already returned to Algeria. Apparently, he was released in the Mali desert and made his own way back to Algeria. "Some people riding camels found him wandering. After some explanations, they took him to Algeria," said a Nigerien military source to the Reuters news service.

The pair were abducted only days after four countries near the Sahara opened a military base to combat al-Qaeda. The vicinity in which the kidnapping took place is known as the "red zone"; foreign offices recommend that tourists avoid the area near the Sahara.

Hostage takings have become more frequent with governments having more trouble controlling the problem. Recently the Mali government sparked a row with Mauritania over the release of four militants.