Al-Qaeda hostages freed in Mali

“The two hostages have been freed,” a government spokesman said, adding that Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero would make a statement at around 1215 GMT.
Francesc Osan, head of the Catalan aid group Accio Solidaria, for which Albert Vilalta, 35, and Roque Pascual, 50, worked at the time of their kidnap in November, said they were now in a “safe area”.

There were expected to arrive in Barcelona by plane “tonight”, he told a press conference.
Media reports said earlier that the two aid workers were heading from Mali, where they had been taken after their abduction, to the border with Burkina Faso following their release.
A Spanish government official on Sunday had said that “we are working for a happy conclusion of this case.”

The two were kidnapped north of the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott on November 29, along with a third Spaniard, 39-year-old Alicia Gamez, who was freed in March.
The release comes after the August 16 transfer from Mauritania to Mali of the kidnap mastermind, Malian national Omar Sid’Ahmed Ould Hamma, who was jailed for 12 years by a Mauritanian court.

Daily El Mundo reported that the release was due to the transfer of Hamma, and the Spanish government paying a ransom of $4.8 million.Hamma has strong ties to the North African branch of Qaeda.

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