An armed group abducted two Spanish aid workers and an Italian from a Sahrawi refugee camp near Tindouf in western Algeria overnight, diplomatic sources in Spain and Italy said on Sunday.
The three “were kidnapped in the Rabuni camp,” a Spanish foreign ministry spokesman said, referring to the camp near Tindouf, mainly inhabited by Sahrawi refugees from Western Sahara, a Morocco-controlled territory that seeks greater autonomy.
“The Sahrawi authorities have told us it was al-Qaeda people, but that's not saying much. It was a commando that was prepared. They were very clear about what they needed to do,” Juan Bedialauneta told Cadena Ser radio
The radio identified the two Spanish workers as Ainhoa Fernandez Rincon and Enrico Gonyans.
Italy’s foreign office in a statement identified the woman as Rossella Urru, who works for the Italian Committee for the Development of Peoples (CISP).
“The Foreign Ministry, in concordance with the Italian Embassy in Algeria, has immediately activated all channels useful in arriving at a positive outcome and is in contact with the relatives and with the CISP,” a statement said.
A former Spanish colony, Western Sahara was annexed by Morocco in 1975.
Western Sahara’s Polisario Front independence movement, backed by Algeria, wants a referendum under the aegis of the United Nations on attachment to Morocco, independence or self-determination.
Morocco has proposed broad autonomy under its sovereignty and refuses to countenance any notion of independence, claiming that the Western Sahara is an historical part of its territory.