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  #46  
Old 17 Mar 2008
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It is possible to transit Algeria undetected and if these guys are in Mali - then they've proved again that it can be done.

But it is still much, much, much easier to nab some tourists on the lawless Mali side of Bordj Moktar once they have checked out of Algeria and the guides have returned to Tam. From Bodj to wherever they might be (near Kidal?) is a whole lot closer than from Tunisia to Mali. So what this tells me is that they specifically wanted to take people from Tunisia. Why could this be?
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  #47  
Old 17 Mar 2008
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Wasn't one of their demands for the release of prisoners in Tunisia? Kidnaping in Tunisia would focus attention there.

I wondered if there was any significance in the vehicle being a Land Rover which could possibly point to British tourists?
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  #48  
Old 17 Mar 2008
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[QUOTE=silver G;180174]Wasn't one of their demands for the release of prisoners in Tunisia? Kidnaping in Tunisia would focus attention there.

Yes -You're right - i've reread the Reuters report...

"DUBAI (Reuters) - Al Qaeda's North African wing threatened on Thursday to kill two Austrian hostages it had abducted in Tunisia if Vienna failed to secure the release of some of the group's members jailed in Tunisia and Algeria."

Iteresting that AQ-M went for Tunisia not Algeria - suggests they are more hopeful of the Tunisian government negotiating than the Algerian.

Last edited by Richard Washington; 17 Mar 2008 at 14:53.
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  #49  
Old 17 Mar 2008
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Here's the latest from Reuters: indeed it is around Kidal - or "more precisely in the Tegargar sector". Looks like they're just after a pay out now. Tuni or Alg not so relevant.

By Tiemoko Diallo
BAMAKO, March 16 (Reuters) - An Austrian diplomatic envoy worked on Sunday to try to obtain the release of two Austrian tourists being held hostage by al Qaeda in Mali's remote northeast Kidal region, Austrian and Malian officials said.

The captives, Andrea Kloiber, 43, and Wolfgang Ebner, 51, went missing while on holiday in Tunisia last month and the Algerian-based Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb said it seized them on Feb. 22.

In neighbouring Algeria, security sources said Austria had accepted the principle of paying a ransom and discussions were focused around the sum of five million euros.

Libya had agreed to act as an intermediary to help finalise the deal, using its influence with a local Tuareg tribe known as El Barabich, the security sources said.

There was no immediate comment from Austrian or Libyan officials. Austrian officials have said they would not negotiate with terrorists.

Al Qaeda demanded a ransom and the liberation of 10 militants held in Algeria and Tunisia within three days from midnight on Thursday, a deadline expiring at midnight on Sunday.

But the security sources in Algeria said al Qaeda had stopped demanding the release of the prisoners and was now only interested in money.

Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik said in a statement in Vienna that the government's aim was the earliest possible release of the hostages.

"So, for example, a former Austrian ambassador has, at my request, met the president of Mali, Amadou Toumani Toure, and informed him personally about the case," she said.
-------------
[fyi: I believe 'El Barabich' would be an Arab/Moorish not a Tuareg tribe].

Ch
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  #50  
Old 17 Mar 2008
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So, these "in the name of Allah" guys have turned out to be usual bandits? How boring. If governments pay money easily like that then more and more people in the region will find it easy to make money off tourists. Why work when you can kidnap some tourists and make a fortune?
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  #51  
Old 17 Mar 2008
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I wouldn't describe these guys as 'usual bandits'. OK, I haven't been kidnapped by them, but from what I hear they operate along very different lines from the usual Saharan bandits. First, they haven't taken hostages for 5 years (almost to the day as sahara-overland.com news points out) and so what they do is not simply the business of raising cash. Otherwise they would have been busy over the last few years since 2003. Second, they have a reputation of generally treating the hostages well, unlike the bandits in northern Niger who have been fairly rough on the people they have robbed. North Africa is a complicated place. So for our own sake I think its best to try and understand what is going on here and not just to label these guys as bandits.
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  #52  
Old 17 Mar 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Washington View Post
So what this tells me is that they specifically wanted to take people from Tunisia. Why could this be?
Richard,

One more point that can be made about this incident is that because it happened so close to the border between Tunisia and Algeria, the Tunisian government could immediately issue a statement to the effect that "Until now there is no element that proves that the two Austrian citizens are in Tunisian territory or that they were kidnapped inside Tunisian borders."

This absolved the Tunisian authorities from raising the level of security threat in their territory (and scare all tourists), the Algerians have a clean record because everybody believes (except the Tunisians) that they had not been involved, and as for Mali, the Libyans may have been offered another chance to demonstrate, if they have the time, their good intentions towards the West.
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  #53  
Old 17 Mar 2008
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I think I'm starting to see why Tunisia was the target and Mali the destination:
1) because of the prisoners in Tunsia - though I wonder if this was the foremost motivation
2) because abducting people in Tunisia and then taking them somewhere 2 countries away really slows the retaliation response time - too many countries have to talk to each other and by then the tourists are far away. This, I think, is a key reason.
3) if they were taken in Algeria and then moved just across the border then Algeria may have retaliated across the border into Mali. But the way it has been done in 2008 (Tunisia to Mali) Algeria has hardly any direct role. The tourists were not taken in Algeria and they are not in Algeria now. Algeria's role is almost neutralised and Algeria is the key military capability out of the 3 countries.
4) The events of 2003 ended up in Mali and that's where the money changed hands - so the insurgents know the routine. The recipe is very similar but cuts out the problem the insurgents experienced in Algeria where the military located them last time round.
5) hits tourism in Tunisia and Algeria alike

Generally speaking these sort of abductions seem to be very well planned. The plan here is bold and elaborate. It isn't the simplest way to abduct a couple of tourists.

All in all the insurgents are financing their side of the war this way - probably along with some smuggling. It still surprises me that they can drive the length of the second largest country in Africa without so much as a siting. The indications in 2003 were that the insurgents were real rookies in the desert. They seem to be doing a lot better this time - which is bad news for any of us lot wanting to go to the desert.

Final thought, I really hope this situation straightens out OK.

Last edited by Richard Washington; 17 Mar 2008 at 23:29.
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  #54  
Old 17 Mar 2008
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I don't think we should under estimate the 'european-ness' of Tunisia, though as a state is as much, if not more repressive than Algeria. If one were looking for publicity in the 'west' Tunisia is more likely to grab a headline - suspect that American or British would get most publicity - may be why they picked on a landrover.
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  #55  
Old 18 Mar 2008
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me, I doubt if the marque of the car is significant (or indeed the nationality). As someone said there are far more Europeans in the Sahara than Brits - and half of them happen to drive LRs.

Looks like they're just after a pay out now. Tuni or Alg not so relevant.

Actually not correct. According to their latest comminiqué which extends the deadline a week, the release of prisoners from Alg and Tuni is still part of the deal so those 2 countries are involved even if, unlike Austria, they are publicly reluctant to admit it.

Ch

Last edited by Chris Scott; 18 Mar 2008 at 20:17. Reason: Clarification
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  #56  
Old 18 Mar 2008
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Hello,

the latest paper from yesterday, the 17.03. from the terrorists. Have a look:

www.desert-info.ch :: Thema anzeigen - VERMISST IN TUNESIEN! Bitte lesen!

Regards

Ulrich
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  #57  
Old 19 Mar 2008
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Hello and good morning,

Quote:
The CIA says the kidnappers hided in Mali
map inserted in Crossover-News

www.desert-info.ch :: Thema anzeigen - VERMISST IN TUNESIEN! Bitte lesen!

Regards from the cold and snowed Germany

Ulrich
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  #58  
Old 19 Mar 2008
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Why Tunisia?

Maybe someone wants Tunisia to look dangerous.
There is Optic 2000 rally end of April in Tunisia. But just at the same time there is a new rally in eastern Europe. So it must be a hard decision for competitors where to go. OK big teams go to Europe (FIA), some of competitors are forced by sponsors to follow big teams. And the rest? Let s help them. Tunisia is dangerous. Borma stage is easy to cancel in this circumstances (and what is optic without Borma stage???). So they don t miss a lot if they move to Europe, even if there will not be no sign of desert racing......

Barbara
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  #59  
Old 19 Mar 2008
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Possible useful gadget for security...

Here's a GPS beacon system which could be very useful in just this sort of situation... Home - SPOT Satellite Messenger
It doesn't cover sub-Saharan Africa yet (well, it's a US product so it's amazing it covers anywhere outside the Western Hemisphere, so I guess we can't complain!) but it looks like something which might be useful as an emergency location beacon. Who would come looking for you is a different matter - but given that one of the functions is Call 911 you might get more of a response than you expected if the suppliers knew that you were using it in case of accident or abduction in the Maghreb...

It requires a subscription as well as purchase, but it's more likely you'd get a chance to use it than a Thuraya if a group of men with guns appear at the campsite...

Tony
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  #60  
Old 19 Mar 2008
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Originally Posted by TonyTea View Post
Here's a GPS beacon system which could be very useful in just this sort of situation... Home - SPOT Satellite Messenger
It doesn't cover sub-Saharan Africa yet (well, it's a US product so it's amazing it covers anywhere outside the Western Hemisphere, so I guess we can't complain!) but it looks like something which might be useful as an emergency location beacon. Who would come looking for you is a different matter - but given that one of the functions is Call 911 you might get more of a response than you expected if the suppliers knew that you were using it in case of accident or abduction in the Maghreb...

It requires a subscription as well as purchase, but it's more likely you'd get a chance to use it than a Thuraya if a group of men with guns appear at the campsite...

Tony
Check out this review of the SPOT system first ... Not bashing it, just saying it's not completely proven yet. But I can imagine how hard it would be on would-be rescuers arriving at a 9-1-1 transmission un-aware that it's a hostage situation. Not a recipe for a happy rescuer to end up facing military hard-ware without prior knowledge or preparation.

SPOT Satellite Messenger FIRST LOOK - EQUIPPED TO SURVIVE (tm)

I don't have a better idea ... just food for thought.

Bruce
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