ALGIERS, Algeria – Suspected Islamic militants abducted an Italian tourist in Algeria’s remote southern desert, state media reported Friday.
The Associated Press reports that the woman was heading toward the southern town of Alidena when militants armed with automatic weapons began following her in all-terrain vehicles.
The Italian Foreign Ministry, citing information from Algerian police, said the Italian woman was apparently kidnapped Wednesday evening south of the city of Djanet, which is 56 miles (90 kilometers) from the Niger border. It did not identify her but said she had been with three Algerians on a travel-agency organized tour.
The three Algerians were freed and the kidnappers took the Italian with them, the ministry said in a statement, adding that the Italian Embassy in Algiers has asked Algerian authorities to not do anything that might put her at risk.
According to AP, there was no immediate claim of responsibility. Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, is active in the area and has often abducted foreign tourists.
Al-Qaida’s North African branch operates throughout the vast arid region, from Mauritania to Chad. It has its roots in an extremist Islamic group in Algeria that brokered an alliance with the terror network in 2006. Since then, AQIM has kidnapped more than a dozen Europeans.
AQIM gunmen abducted two Frenchmen from a restaurant in Niger’s capital last month, and the men were found dead less than 24 hours later.