Officials in Mali say they are hopeful 14 Europeans held captive by Algerian militants may be freed soon.

There has been a flurry of diplomatic activity in recent days to win the release of the hostages - nine Germans, four Swiss and one Dutchman.

Various German news media reported Sunday the captives' release was imminent. However Malian officials could not verify the reports.

German Deputy Foreign Minister Juergen Chrobog arrived Sunday in Mali's capital, Bamako. Mr. Chrobog flew aboard a German government hospital plane that officials say could be used to repatriate the European hostages kidnapped in the Sahara desert.

He told reporters that he is prepared to bring the hostages home from their captivity, but that he does not know how long it will take.

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