This week's release of two Spanish aid workers and their Italian colleague, who had been kidnapped and held by terrorists in Mali since October, was accomplished in exchange for the release of three detained suspects thought to have taken part in the abduction, an advisor to the president of Burkina Faso revealed.
"It was freedom in exchange for another freedom," said Gilbert Diendiere, an advisor to President Blaise Compaoré and who served as a mediator in securing the release of Spaniards Enric Gonyalons and Ainhoa Fernández and the Italian Rosella Urru, who were captured from a Sahrawi refugee camp in Algeria by members of the so-called Movement of Unity and Jihad in West Africa (Muyao).
The three hostages were freed in Mali and arrived at the Torrejón de Ardoz airbase late Thursday. The suspects in custody were in turn taken by a Spanish plane to Burkina Faso and turned over to mediators.
Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo didn't want to provide any details on how the government was able to secure their release so as not to hamper ongoing efforts to win the freedom of two other Spanish aid workers being held in Somalia and seven Europeans held by Al Qaeda in Mali.
The minister said that everything had been done "with absolute respect for national and international law."
The Mauritanian news agency ANI reported that Muyao demanded and received a $15-million ransom and quoted a spokesman for the group saying that "all the conditions had been met."