Page last updated at 14:50 GMT, Friday, 31 October 2008

Austrian hostages freed in Mali


Two Austrian hostages held for eight months by Islamic militants in the Sahara desert have been freed, officials in Mali and Austria say.

Andrea Kloiber, 43, and Wolfgang Ebner, 51, disappeared in February while on holiday in Tunisia.

The North African branch of al-Qaeda said it had seized them.

Mali's government said the two were now "free and under the protection of the Malian army". The statement was later confirmed by the Austrian authorities.

The exact circumstances of the pair's release are not clear.

According to statements posted on the internet earlier this year, the kidnappers demanded the release of militants held in Algeria and Tunisia.

There were also reports of ransom demands.

In Vienna, Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik said a plane was on its way to Mali to fly the two home.

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