Sahrawi authorities are searching for the kidnappers of two Spanish aid workers and an Italian who were abducted from a refugee camp near Tindouf in western Algeria overnight, said officials.
“Sahrawi authorities, which strongly condemn the criminal act, have taken necessary actions to pursue the kidnappers,” said a statement from the information ministry to Sahrawi news agency SPS and confirmed by an official at the Sahrawi embassy in Algiers.
It said the kidnappers had crossed borders of neighbouring Mali, using four-wheel drive vehicles and arms, and that one hostage and a Sahrawi security guard were wounded in fire exchange during the attack, Reuters reports.
Spain’s foreign ministry identified the two workers as Ainhoa Fernandez de Rincon from a pro-Sahrawi organisation in Extremadura, western Spain, and Enric Gonyalons from Majorca who was working with Basque non-profit group Mundubat.
Meanwhile, the Italian foreign ministry identified its worker as Rossella Urru from the Rome-based Comitato Italiano Sviluppo dei Popoli group.
Morocco annexed Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, in 1975 and it has since become the subject of dispute between Morocco’s government and an independence movement backed by neighbouring Algeria, where many Sahrawis live in refugee camps.
“We’re working with the governments in the area … as always with utmost prudence and discretion because what’s most important is for the workers to be freed as soon as possible,” Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez said on television.