ROME, April 19 (UPI) -- Two Italians held hostage by al-Qaida terrorists in Mali have been released.
Sergio Cicala and Philomene Kaboure were picked up by Malian troops in the eastern Gao region after intense negotiations involving Italian and Malian diplomats, BBC News reports.
Italy's Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said the release was the product of intense bargaining.
"We had to work for many months on very complex political and diplomatic negotiations," he told Italian state television.
Cicala and his Burkina Faso-born wife were abducted in Mauritania last year. The North African branch of al-Qaida demanded that imprisoned militants to be freed by March 1 in return for the pair's release.
Shortly before the deadline expired, Cicala urged Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to intervene in an audio message posted on the Internet.