Missing Australians ‘nowhere to be found’

Missing Australians ‘nowhere to be found’

www.iol.co.za, March 11, 2008

Tunis – An Austrian couple touring the north African desert who have gone missing have not been abducted, the Tunisian authorities said on Tuesday.

« According to the most recent information we have, the tourists have crossed the border (into Algeria) in their off-road vehicle, » a spokesperson for the authorities said overnight.

Arab news channel al-Jazeera had earlier reported that al-Qaeda in North Africa had claimed that it had taken Andrea Kloiber, 43, and Wolfgang Ebner, 51.

The Austrian foreign ministry has not confirmed the kidnapping.

Wolfgang Ebner’s son Bernhard said that he last spoke to his father by telephone on February 18. Since then he has heard nothing from the couple.

They arrived in Tunisia’s Halk al-Oed port from Genoa in Italy on February 10 and were most recently seen in the town of Matmata on the Algerian border.

Al-Qaeda in North Africa has carried out several attacks on public facilities in Algeria in recent months.

In April 2002, Islamist terrorists carried out an attack in front of the synagogue in Djerba in Tunisia in which 21 people died, including 14 German tourists.

There have been no subsequent attacks on tourists in Tunisia.

« We (would like to) stress that there is no reason to be concerned about the security and physical integrity of the millions of European tourists who visit Tunisia each year, » the Tunisian government spokesperson said. – Sapa-DPA