Page last updated at 13:59 GMT, Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Spanish hostage in Africa freed

Alicia Gamez (file picture)
Alicia Gamez was seized with two other Spaniards in November

A Spanish woman kidnapped in West Africa last year has been freed, the Spanish government says.

Alicia Gamez, 39, was "safe and sound... [and] travelling to Barcelona with a family member," Spain's deputy prime minister said.

There are unconfirmed reports that an Italian woman reportedly held by the same group has also been released.

Ms Gamez was seized in Mauritania last year and held by a militant group, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, in Mali.

She and two male Spaniards - all aid workers - were snatched from a convoy by armed men on a road between the Mauritanian cities of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou on 29 November.

The two men are still being held.

Spain's Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said no ransom was paid for Ms Gamez. She said the release was the work of Spain's diplomats and intelligence services.

"What is important now is that we continue to work with the same intensity to ensure that the others are freed," she added.

"When I spoke to her she said the other aid workers are well, they are in good health, logically they are nervous, with a great desire to be released as well and the hope to be freed shortly."

Ransom demands

Diplomatic sources also reported that an Italian woman, Philomene Kaboure, 39, was also freed. But later some doubt was cast on this claim.

Ms Kaboure and her husband, Sergio Cicala, 65, were seized last December in Mauritania and also taken to Mali by the militants.

A Frenchman seized in Mali in November and held by the same group was released last month after its demand that Mali release four prisoners was met.

The Mauritanian government reacted with outrage, saying giving in to the demands would encourage further kidnapping.

Spanish media reported recently that al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb had demanded a ransom to release the hostages, and El Mundo newspaper alleged that the Spanish government was in the process of paying.

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