ALGIERS, Algeria, April 18 (UPI) -- Three mediators appointed to resolve a hostage crisis in the West African nation of Mali were killed, the Tuareg Alliance for Change said.
The mediators were from the alliance and responsible for relaying messages in negotiations to free two Austrian nationals held since February by an al-Qaida affiliate known as the al-Qaida Organization, Med Basin Newsline reported Friday.
Algerian newspapers reported hostage negotiations were suspended following the killings earlier this month.
Hassan Fagaga, a Tuareg military commander, said the killers of the three tribal mediators were not identified. However, Algerian sources said the assassins were believed to be Tuareg dissidents or members of the Mali intelligence community.
Austria said it would not abandon efforts to free the hostages, identified as Andrea Kloiber, 43, and Wolfgang Ebner, 51, Med Basin Newsline said.
Al-Qaida has demanded the release of a Muslim couple held in Austria in exchange for the two Austrians.
"There has not been any interruption to our efforts to save the hostages as the report suggests," said Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, a spokesman for the Austrian Foreign Ministry.