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Timbuktu: 3 tourists kidnapped, 1 killed, witness says

Gunmen reportedly killed a foreign tourist and kidnapped three others from a restaurant in the center of Timbuktu, in what is believed to be the first kidnapping of foreigners in the historic desert town.

Timbuktu tourists kidnapped 11 25 2011Enlarge
A resident of Timbuktu walks past the restored City of 333 Saints' Djingareyber Mosque. (ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)

A gang of armed men killed a foreign tourist and kidnapped three others in Timbuktu, the historic desert city in northern Mali, according to reports. 

A witness told the Associated Press that four foreign tourists were kidnapped while eating at Amanar restaurant in Timbuktu's central square. A gang of gunmen reportedly burst into the restaurant and ordered the foreigners to follow them into a car. An elderly man who refused was killed on the spot, the AP reported.

The nationality of the hostages is not yet known. Reuters quoted sources as saying the dead man was German.

According to the BBC, this is thought to be the first time that foreigners have been kidnapped in Timbuktu, a former tourist hotspot that is now subject to travel warnings by foreign embassies.

Reuters said:

Timbuktu, founded a thousand years ago and famous as a major trading center for gold and salt, was one of the centers of a tourist sector that includes a famous festival of Malian music.

Previous kidnappings of Westerners in Mali have occurred further into the desert. The kidnappings and ensuing ransom demands are believed to be the work of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

The incident in Timbuktu comes just a day after two French geologists working for a construction company were kidnapped from their hotel in the town of Hombori. They are believed to be the first Westerners in Mali to be kidnapped south of the Niger River.

According to the AP, AQIM members have kidnapped more than 50 Europeans and Canadians since 2003.

The UK Foreign Office has warned its citizens against travel to Mali's northern provinces, including the city of Timbuktu, because of the "high threat of terrorism," the BBC reported.

Video from GlobalPost: Oujda: Death in the Sahara

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/111125/timbuktu-tourists-kidnapped-amanar-restaurant-mali-travel