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Al Qaeda sets ransom for Swiss/British hostages

A North African Al Qaeda group holding a Swiss and Briton hostage has backed away from killing one and wants €10 million (SFr 15.13 million) instead.

An Algerian newspaper reported on Saturday that Al Qaeda would free the Swiss hostage first if it received the money. The Briton would go free one week later.

The extremists had threatened to kill the Briton, who has not been named, on May 15 if Britain did not free Abu Qatada, a Jordanian fundamentalist being held prisoner there.

The North African wing of Al Qaeda has taken responsibility for kidnapping two Canadian diplomats and four tourists in the Sahara between Mali and Niger during the past five months. The diplomats and two tourists, including the wife of the current Swiss hostage, were released in April.

British authorities would not confirm reports that negotiations are currently underway to free the others. The Algerian paper said Al Qaeda could be willing to accept €8 million. It set a two-month deadline for the payment.

The Swiss foreign ministry has warned against travel to the border regions between Mali and Niger. with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR