I have been reading this forum for about a year now, but just registered to put in this update:
17 tourists freed in raid on Islamic abductors' hideout
COLOGNE - Seventeen European tourists were reunited with their families in emotional scenes on Wednesday after being freed from their Islamic extremist abductors deep in Algeria's Sahara desert, but there were fears for another 15 still held captive.
Six Germans, 10 Austrians and one Swede were freed on Tuesday when Algerian troops stormed a desert hideout of the Islamic Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, reportedly linked to the Al-Qaeda network, near the Sahara's largest city of Tamanrasset.
The Germans and the Swede were flown into the western German city of Cologne while the Austrians returned to Salzburg in central Austria.
At the airports in both cities, there were emotional reunions with waiting family members. The returnees were mostly too exhausted to give an account of their ordeal.
Mr Juergen Chrobog, a deputy foreign minister who accompanied the ex-hostages on their flight home, thanked the Algerian authorities.
But he added: 'We are very concerned about the second group of hostages.'
German officials refused to give any details about the circumstances of the hostages' release and the Austrian authorities ordered a media blackout amid concern over the fate of the remaining hostages.
But one of the freed detainees said the extremists were constantly on the move to stay one step ahead of pursuing Algerian troops.
'We were on the run every night, we had to walk every night. Our shoes were torn, we were at the end of our physical limits, we couldn't do it any more,' Austrian Gerhard Wintersteller told the German RTL television on Wednesday.
He would not say how the hostages were treated for fear of endangering the lives of the 15 who remained in captivity.
However, he said he suspected the kidnappers were Islamic extremists. They prayed every night and said they wanted to create an Islamic state, first in Algeria and then in other Arab countries, Mr Wintersteller said.
They were demanding a ransom in order to buy weapons, he added.
All the European tourists were reported missing over the past three months after travelling in six groups without guides in a vast desert covering two million sq km in Algeria alone.
The Algerian authorities deployed thousands of troops in the hunt.
The remaining tourists were being held by a 'second terrorist group', Algerian officials said.
Of the remaining hostages, 10 are German, four are Swiss and one is Dutch.
According to Algeria's El-Watan daily, they are being held at Tamelrik, near the Libyan border. -- AFP
I've been following this story for a while now, and since some of the captives are known to some board members, I hope this brings someone a bit of hope of their own.