Kidnappers repeat their call for freeing Islamists held in Algeria, Tunisia in exchange for Austrians’ freedom. Austria vowed Monday to press on with efforts to free two nationals seized by an Al-Qaeda group in north Africa, while the kidnappers were said to have extended a deal-making deadline into next month. “It is an additional extension of two weeks that will expire on Sunday, April 6, 2008, at midnight,” the Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb said in a message posted on militant websites and picked up by the US-based monitoring group SITE Intelligence. When this “final” extension expires, “we will have exhausted what we could bear. Let Austria, Tunisia and Algeria be responsible for the lives of the kidnapped,” the message said. The group also repeated its original demand that a number of Islamists imprisoned in Algeria and Tunisia be released in exchange for the Austrians’ freedom. “The conditions of the mujahedeen regarding the release of some of our hostages in return for the release of the kidnapped are still the same and did not change, even while some of the newspapers that are used to lying claim otherwise,” the message said. Sim Wissgott reports.

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