A colleague of one of the Spanish hostages said over Spanish radio that “several gunshots were heard” and two people were wounded during the kidnapping from the Rabuni camp near Tindouf, mainly inhabited by Sahrawi refugees from Western Sahara who seek greater autonomy.
The information ministry of Western Sahara’s Polisario Front independence movement said the Spanish hostage and a Sahrawi guard were wounded.
In the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott, a security official told the AFP news agency that al-Qaeda’s north Africa wing was behind the kidnapping.
They “were taken hostage by elements of AQIM (al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) under the authority of Moktar Bel Moktar (alias Belewar, the Algerian leader of an AQIM branch,” the source said, without detailing the circumstances of the kidnapping.
The Polisario Front’s envoy to Algiers said he “directly accused” AQIM of carrying out the kidnapping shortly before midnight on Saturday.
The Spanish hostages were identified as Ainhoa Fernandez de Rincon and Enric Gonyalons ? who was wounded.
The Italian foreign ministry identified the Italian as Rossella Urru, who works for the Italian Committee for the Development of Peoples (CISP).
“In co-operation with the Italian Embassy in Algeria, (Rome) has immediately activated all channels useful in arriving at a positive outcome and is in contact with the relatives and with the CISP,” the ministry said in a statement.
Trinidad Jiminez, the Spanish foreign minister, said his government was working with regional counterparts “with great caution (so that) the aid workers are freed as soon as possible.”
A former Spanish colony, Western Sahara was annexed by Morocco in 1975.
The Polisario Front, 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.