Italian kidnapped in Algeria freed after 14 months

ROME Tue Apr 17, 2012 5:13pm EDT

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ROME (Reuters) - Maria Sandra Mariani, an Italian tourist kidnapped by Al Qaeda-linked insurgents in Algeria more than 14 months ago, was freed in northern Mali, authorities in Italy and Burkina Faso said on Tuesday.

Mariani, who was kidnapped in southeastern Algeria on February 2, 2011, was released in the northern Malian town of Tessalit and then taken south to Ouagadougou, capital of Mali's neighbor Burkina Faso.

"I thank President (Blaise) Compaore for his contribution to my release," Mariana told reporters before boarding a plane to Italy. She said her period of captivity had been "difficult", but gave no more details about the circumstances of her release.

Northern Mali is a vast rugged area on the Sahara's southern edge where al Qaeda operatives often hold foreign hostages in remote desert camps.

(Reporting by Catherine Hornby in Rome and by Mathieu Bonkoungou in Ouagadougou; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Angus MacSwan)

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