April 23, 2012 / 5:08 PM / 6 years ago

Algeria says real chance of freeing Mali hostages

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algeria sees a “real prospect” that seven of its diplomats, who were abducted by Islamist rebels in northern Mali, can be freed, Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said on Monday.

The diplomats were abducted earlier this month from the town of Gao, part of a swathe of territory in northern Mali under the control of Tuareg-led separatists since they pushed out the military in an offensive over the past few weeks.

“I can assure the Algerian public that the hostages are in good health,” Medelci told reporters. “The prospects of them being freed are real and there is a good hope that the measures undertaken will lead to a happy conclusion.”

Mali’s Tuareg separatists have said an Islamist group loosely linked to them was behind the abduction. The hostages are Algeria’s consul in Gao and six consular staff, according to the Algerian foreign ministry.

Algeria shares a border with Mali. Its diplomats may have been targeted because the Algerian government has been waging a long campaign against Islamist militants, including al Qaeda’s north African wing, on its own territory.

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