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key news = word on negotations and some possible reasons for the groups being separated.....
Vienna - Algerian authorities have located 11 of 31 tourists missing in the Sahara desert and have opened talks with the kidnappers, reports the Austrian weekly, Profil.
"Bedouins are said to have seen the kidnappers and 11 hostages striking camp," Profil reports from Algeria.
"Algerian authorities have not used the word hostage-takers to decribe the kidnappers, in order to be able to open negotiations," says Profil, adding that talks had already started.
Fifteen Germans, 10 Austrians, four Swiss, a Dutchman and a Swede are missing in an area of the Sahara frequented by smugglers, drug-runners and a militant group linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.
Some have not been heard of since February.
Profil said the talks were being handled at senior level because of the international attention now focused on Algeria.
It said the German hostages were being held separately - possibly an indication that Germany was the target of the attack, which could aim at freeing four Algerian extremists jailed there.
The missing tourists had been travelling in six separate groups without guides.
They vanished in southern Algeria's vast desert.
On Monday, the Austrian diplomat in charge of finding his missing nationals said they had not necessarily been kidnapped, while the Dutch foreign ministry confirmed that the missing Dutchman had been taken hostage.
hello, I'm Igor, dutch, and of course have heard and read all about this terrible disappearings, ie kidnappings. The only positive news I guess is that there would be these negotiations, and it looks that the tourists are still alive.
I hardly dare to say it, but I'm in Tunis with my landcruiser HJ61, and planned to go thru algeria down to niger, than heading for the eastcoast, so chad, sudan and ethiopia.
AS i heard about algeria i tried to change plans, and I'm trying to get a visa for libya now. being on my own and not having a required invitation from a libyian travel agency (if someone knows how to get one...)
I find myserlf in a difficult dilemma-wait forever for a libyian visa, or go thru algeria...I have a visa, which expires soon so I have to decide quickly. I thought, if I would only go at the main route, like this:
tunis-nefta- el-oued - ghardaia- el golea-in salah- arak-tamanrasset-(niger) arlit-agadez....I would only drive at daylight ofcourse and stop at every big town (about each 500/600 km), shouldn't it be ok then?
I esp. ask it to you chris, as experienced traveller..
it's not that i like risks, but i saved long for this, gave up my job, and apt. to do all this. at the end of june afriend is flying over to ethiopia, so if i reach that..
please some reactions to this..
Originally posted by 3ID: To all:
I was notified this morning that German TV canceled the planned story regarding missing tourists in Algeria. The story was bumped with no plans to do another.
You have my sympathies (although not as much as the "hostages" and their families). I was aiming to be there early March, and was fortunate enough to be "running late", thereby being alerted to the trouble before leaving - otherwise I might have been there now. I really don't know what the risks are now (don't know if anyone does). It seems that the abductions occured over only 3 weeks or so, so logically with all the searching going on now I would have thought any kidnappers would be keeping a very low profile indeed.
Having said all that, I've put my trip on hold till a few braver souls have been and come back. Best of luck whatever!
I'm thinking aloud, and in no way giving advice! Any advice should say: Don't go !
My view is, that the Niger-Chad-Sudan route carries far more risks than Algeria even under present circumstances. The main difference is that the few who dared to take on the challenge there were accepting and prepared for the risk, whereas south Algeria was perceived to be completely safe before, so no precautions were needed.
I'd say your analysis is correct, you can probably (but by no means certainly!) pull it off by sticking to main roads and joining up with other vehicles in the more remote stretches.
On the other hand, the recent events have substantially increased the risk not only in Algeria, but in the whole of the lawless central region of the Sahara. Your real problems start when you leave the roads and hit the pistes to go further south.
Certainly I would not consider the route down from Libya to Chad presently. Also northern Niger was never a quiet place even in the good times, and little good news came from those parts recently.
I personally would have not considered doing a solo trip along your planned course even before the recent events. I don't think the Algeria situation adds much to this, only broadens the risk zone.
No one could give the right advice here.
Libya is not safer than Algeria - the current story is likely to draw attention of some persons to "taking hostages in order to achieve a goal". You will not know whether people are repeating this.
One way to be a little "safer" is to travel with local guides - since they know where to set a foot and where better not to even think of it.
But: at least two vehicles were said lost on plain road between Illizi and Djanet.
And: in the UK, we saw a process against terrorists of the same kind than in Germany. Ending with some persons in prison. I'd not wonder that UK people get in trouble as of now.
So, no real advice here - just one rational one: get back.
Best wishes, Marina
It's not an easy choice you're faced with and I'm happy not to be in your position.
I have travelled your route over the last 5 months, i.e. Algeria, Niger, Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia and on to Capetown where I am now. Andrasz is perhaps right that northern Niger, Chad and Sudan are not very safe places to travel but then you had already made that decision before you left. Also, I do not know of people who have gone missing on this route over the last years. I have made it safely across this route, but was held up at the Chad/Sudan border for a night because of a robbery 20 minutes earlier!
Your major concern is Algeria and sticking to the main road is I guess your most viable option. Other than getting a local guide, I would try to arrange a police escort. In my experience the police were very friendly and helpful last November and I guess they are not too keen on losing even more tourists. I do not know if the convoy on the main route is still operating but it would be another option.
The downside of approaching the police is that they may send you back altogether. In that case it's perhaps best not to push your luck any further and just get back on the ferry and go for the western route. Getting a good guide across Algeria is a tricky business and definitely going to eat a big hole in your budget. Also, how will a guide protect you from being hijacked?
Please note that I am not advising you to go into Algeria at the moment, I am merely trying to provide some ideas. I would under NO circumstance go into Algeria alone.
I would say taking the tar roads through Algeria is an option that Igor, you prepared to take a chance on as I presume you got to Tunis after this all started and is aware of the consequences. After all, it is not like all Algeria is making war on tourists, just a group of well organised individuals who, as was said, made their hits over 2-3 weeks and now have enough on their plate.
But first I would check with the Alg embassy in Tunis and ask if you would even be allowed in. And although the weather is not getting any better, I would wait in Tunisia as long as you can until some positive news comes out of the abductions. Even then Alg may not want the responsibility of any more tourists crossing their country, even on the highway - or they may escort you all the way. Certainly, you will attract a lot of welcome attention from the police etc, and it is possible once you get to El Golea you will become part of the convoy that goes down the TSH to In Ecker. As far as I understand, it is not certain one group was abducted off the Illizi-Djanet highway - that is just the last place they were possibly seen.
I know several people who have crossed to Sudan by themselves recently on bike and in cars - it has its drawbacks - especially when you in towns which until recently I would regard as less safe than most of the open desert. But being in groups did not stop the recent abductions. As Andras said though, in the Niger towns of Arlit and Agadez as well as the Chad crossing and the west of Sudan, travellers should be alert to robberies, banditry etc.
All in all it's going to be a tense trip and so one has to wonder is it worth it?
Fortunatly this event has happened at the end of the season which gives us the whole of the summer to rebuild our confidence in travelling on the piste Algeria. That however will take some doing.
Fingers crossed for a positive outcome to the abductions.
No passage through Algeria at the moment!
Acccoding to several independent sources, we got the information that it is not possible to cross Algeria north-south:
Route Ouargla-El Golea-In Salah closed for tourists
No way beyond Hassi Bel Guebbour
In the east, probably a possibility to reach DebDeb, but definitely not In Amenas.
My impression: Something is exploding in that country, get out as long as you can.
[This message has been edited by PeterM (edited 25 April 2003).]
1. confirmation of contact suggested by the Algerian spokeperson who indicates that the 31 have plenty of water but diminishing food
2. suggestion that the Algerians will let the insurgents go free if the 31 are released
3. talk of two of Emir Ammari's men (the named leader of the insurgents) had recently been involved in a firefight with Algerian troops near the location of the Iveco van.
4. usual stuff about GPS vs local guides. With local guides to hand your truck doesn't get buried under sand while the occupants and the truck battery are spirited away, of course.
Obviously, you make a strong case about the relationship between local guides and car batteries. On the other hand, a French friend of mine who runs Raids 4x4 Globe-Trotter returned from that area shortly after the first abductions. When I discussed the situation with him, he was quite positive about local guides making a big difference to the safety of desert travel. I can imagine if something is brewing in a hotspot such as Algeria, these guys are usually quick to spot it and can often save you from trouble. You can't sniff out such news just by talking to people in the market place and as a stranger will always be treated with a degree of suspicion.
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