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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 November, 2004, 12:31 GMT
Sahara tourists jailed for theft
The Sahara desert in Algeria
The tourists were found camping in the desert
Five German tourists who went missing in the Sahara desert have been jailed by an Algerian court for stealing ancient objects from a protected site.

They were sentenced to three months in prison and fined nearly $500,000.

The group had managed to give their guide the slip but were later discovered with a stash of artefacts.

No details were given of what was stolen from the Tassili National Park - a vast world heritage site near the Libyan and Niger borders.

The disappearance of the group of tourists, ranging in age from 32 to 53, sparked a massive manhunt as authorities feared they had been kidnapped by Islamist rebels.

Cave art

The three men and two women were found camping in the desert about 300km (180 miles) from the border with Niger with 130 archaeological artefacts in their vehicles.

The court in Djanet, southeast of the capital, Algiers, imposed a fine of 35.2 million dinars ($489,000; 262,000) on the Germans.

The Tassili National Park features on Unesco's World Heritage List.

Apart from outstanding geological formations, it has what is described as one of the most important groupings of prehistoric cave art in the world - thousands of drawings and engravings depicting animal and human life in the region.

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