MADRID Three Spanish aid workers who disappeared in Mauritania on Sunday appear to have been kidnapped by a group linked to al Qaeda, Spain's Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said.
"Although we still can't be completely sure of anything, everything indicates that it was a kidnapping, and, if so, as I fear it was, everything indicates that it was a kidnapping by AQIM, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb," Rubalcaba told Spanish radio on Monday.
Albert Vilalta, Alicia Gamez and Roque Pascual disappeared from a convoy run by a Barcelona-based humanitarian aid organization to deliver computers and other equipment to poor communities.
Mauritanian security sources said an attack took place on the road between the capital Nouakchott and the coastal trading city of Nouadhibou.
Mauritania has been a source of growing security concern since Islamist gunmen claimed responsibility for the slaying of four French tourists in late 2007 and then a September 2008 beheading of Mauritanian soldiers on a patrol.
Al Qaeda's North Africa wing claimed responsibility for a botched suicide bomb attack on the French embassy in Mauritania in August which injured three people.
(Reporting by Teresa Larraz; writing by Jason Webb)