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German Chancellor Welcomes Release of Hostages in Sahara Desert - 2003-08-19

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has welcomed the release of 14 Europeans held hostage by Algerian militants in the Sahara desert.

Mr. Schroeder says Germany will help Algeria and Mali, whose governments helped secure the hostages' freedom, track down the kidnappers.

A Mali presidential spokesman said the tourists -- nine Germans, four Swiss and one Dutchman -- are now in Malian hands. The 14 are expected to arrive in Mali's capital, Bamako Tuesday and then fly to Germany.

Authorities have given no details about the hostages' condition, but German media reports say they are doing well. Authorities have refused to comment on whether any of the kidnappers' demands, including a ransom, were met.

The hostages are among 32 Europeans kidnapped in southern Algeria in February. Seventeen of the captives were freed in May after a rescue operation by the Algerian army. One more is believed to have died of heatstroke.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.