March 16, 2008 / 7:47 PM / 11 years ago

Leading Muslim cleric urges Qaeda to free Austrians

DUBAI, March 16 (Reuters) - A leading Sunni Muslim cleric urged al Qaeda’s North Africa wing on Sunday to free two Austrian hostages it abducted in Tunisia.

"I urge you in the name of God, Islam, the Koran and the interest of the (Islamic) nation to free the two hostages for the sake of the dignity of this religion," Egyptian scholar Youssef al-Qaradawi said on Al Jazeera television.

The group has threatened to kill the two tourists abducted in Tunisia on Feb. 22 if Vienna does not secure the release of some of its prisoners in Tunisia and Algeria. (Reporting by Inal Ersan; Editing by Caroline Drees)

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