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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 July, 2003, 21:35 GMT 22:35 UK
Tourist hostage 'dies in Sahara'
By Ray Furlong
BBC correspondent in Berlin

One of a group of 15 European tourists who were kidnapped in Algeria in March has reportedly died.

Media in Germany have reported that Michaela Spitzer, 45, died of exhaustion in the desert, although the authorities in Germany and Algeria declined to either confirm or deny the report.

The tourists are believed to have been abducted by Islamic militants.

Michaela Spitzer
In the interest of the hostages who are still in a very difficult situation, the government cannot give any information.
German spokesman

The death of the German woman was reported by several news media outlets here.

National television said her body had been found buried in the desert, while a leading newspaper quotes her ex-husband as saying that German police informed him of her death.

It is thought she died in the 50 C heat of the Sahara desert, where she disappeared in March.

The German authorities have refused to comment, beyond saying that they did not want to endanger the lives of the hostages.

Families' anguish

Of 32 tourists originally kidnapped, 17 were freed in a raid by the Algerian army in May.

It is thought the remainder are being held by Islamist rebels.

In recent days, there has been speculation in the media both here and in Africa that the kidnappers have taken their remaining captives over the border into Mali.

As late as Monday, the Algerian interior minister said efforts were still under way to free them.

But these reports can only further alarm those relatives back in Europe waiting for their loved ones to come home.


SEE ALSO:
Missing tourists sought in Mali
23 Jul 03  |  Africa
Missing Sahara tourists 'alive'
17 Jun 03  |  Africa
Saharan hostage 'rescue planned'
20 May 03  |  Africa
Sahara hostage tells of ordeal
15 May 03  |  Africa
Sahara hostages fly home
14 May 03  |  Africa
German plea over Sahara tourists
12 May 03  |  Africa


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