Algeria demands hostage release
By Walid Ramzi for Magharebia in Algiers – 01/06/11
Algeria has launched a formal appeal for the release of all hostages held in Africa, including the Algerians captured by Somali pirates early this year, according to Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci.
"Africa and the international community must intensify their efforts to strengthen the capacities of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and to eliminate terrorist groups that continue to threaten the stability of this country and hold its future hostage," Medelci said Sunday (May 29th). "They must also mobilise in order to put an end to piracy off the coast of Somalia."
When asked about the 17 Algerian sailors captured aboard the MV Blida in January, Medelci said that they were in "good condition".
"The Algerian authorities are monitoring the situation and are in regular contact with them through ship owner International Bulk Carriers (IBC), who are negotiating their release," he said.
The vessel with 27 crew was hijacked in the Indian Ocean on January 1st en route to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania from the Omani port of Salalah.
Toudji Azzedine, from the city of Dellys in Boumerdes province, was among the detained sailors. According to his family, the last communication they had with him was on May 24th. They were told that the crew were in dire conditions.
In his two-minute conversation with his family, Azzedine seemed more worried than a month before, when his family spoke to him for 20 minutes, his son said. The sailor wondered what the authorities were doing to secure the sailors' release.
The appeal launched by Medelci came two days after the families of the hostages assembled in front of the IBC headquarters to denounce the authorities' silence regarding the sailors' fate and to demand President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's intervention to save their lives.
The 80-year-old mother of Ismail Kehli, from Algiers, was among the participants. After hearing about her son's abduction, she suffered from paraplegia and was hospitalised.
"What does the minister want from this appeal?" she wondered. "Does he want to say that Algeria will not pay ransom to save the sailors and they will remain there for many years?"
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