Kidnappers of Austrian tourists demand withdrawal of country’s troops from Afghanistan


VIENNA, Austria: Austrian radio reported Monday that Islamist militants holding two Austrian tourists in North Africa have made new demands for their release.

The report, which did not cite any sources, said the hostage-takers want the withdrawal from Afghanistan of Austria’s four soldiers, who are part of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force. The report also said the kidnappers are demanding the release of a couple recently convicted in Vienna of involvement in a March 2007 video threatening Austria and Germany with attacks.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal declined comment on the report.

Last week, al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa, which says it kidnapped Wolfgang Ebner and Andrea Kloiber in February, said the pair would be freed only if several of its members were released from Algerian and Tunisian prisons by April 6.

The couple disappeared in Tunisia.

The report Monday also seemed to suggest that the hostage-takers were demanding a ransom and had increased the requested amount. Reports about a ransom have circulated for some time.

Launsky-Tieffenthal said the ministry was not aware of a ransom demand.