August 26, 2006

Niger govt says Italian hostages no longer in Niger

NIAMEY (Reuters) - Two Italian tourists kidnapped in Niger
by a former Saharan rebel group have been moved out of the West
African country by their hostage takers, the government in
Niamey said on Saturday without giving further details.

"The abducted tourists are no longer on Niger's territory
but in a neighboring country. The authorities in Niger ... are
doing their best to obtain their release," Niger's government
spokesman Mohamed Ben Omar told national television.

The tourists were taken on Monday in southeastern Niger
near the Chad border by an ex-rebel group called the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of the Sahara (FARS), whose
traditional operating base is further north near the Libyan

The government has in the past accused FARS of working with
armed groups from Chad.

"We call on these bandits to release the two Italians. If
they have problems they should come and discuss them with the
authorities so a solution can be found," Ben Omar said.