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Germany

Germany in Brief

Broadcaster reveals suspected hostage location; Deutsche Bahn reintroduces old Bahncard; German intelligence puts Saudis under surveillance; soccer coach returns to Iraq, Afghan trio hit airwaves.

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14 European tourists are still being held hostage in the Sahara.


Broadcaster identifies hostages’ whereabouts

Information received by the German broadcaster ARD claims that the 14 European tourists still being held hostage in the Sahara desert are in a remote area where the borders of Algeria, Mali and Mauritania meet. The TV network said in a news broadcast on Sunday that previous reports stating that the 10 Germans, four Swiss and a Dutchman were in mountains near Kidal, Mali were incorrect. It did not cite any sources for its report. On Friday, N-TV television news said Islamic radicals holding the group had demanded $70 million in ransom, but ARD and other networks said on Sunday that figure was exaggerated.

New ‘old’ Bahncard back in circulation

German railway operator Deutsche Bahn reintroduced the discount ‘Bahncard’ travel pass which gives a 50 percent reduction on ticket prices at the weekend. The decision to do so contradicts a statement made by company chairman Hartmut Mehdorn who insisted in May that the days of the old Bahncard were over. The cheaper Bahncard, offering only a 25 percent discount, which had been introduced three months ago much to the displeasure of train customers, will continue to be valid. The return of the 50 percent card is seen as a response to customers' dissatisfaction and a sharp decline in rail travel. Many regular train riders said they were traveling less after losing their accustomed 50 percent discount on tickets. Demand for the relaunched card over the weekend was said to be widespread.

Intelligence service puts Saudis under surveillance

Federal intelligence authorities have recently placed the Saudi embassy, consulates and other facilities in Germany under surveillance, according to a report in Der Spiegel magazine. The article quotes intelligence sources who said that the German operation began shortly after the United States released a report on September 11 that implicated Saudis in the terrorist attacks. There are suspicions with the German intelligence service that elements within Saudi Arabia have been supporting activities of al Qaeda affiliated cells in Germany through logistic and financial networks, the magazine reported.

Stange returns to coach Iraqi national soccer team

Bernd Stange, the German soccer coach in charge of the Iraqi national team, has returned to assume his duties as boss in the war-torn country, according to the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel. "We're going to have to wait a while before we can play football well here," said the coach who trains his team under the protection of the American authorities in a stadium which was heavily bombed during the recent war. The former East German manager, like everyone, is under curfew between 11 at night and six in the morning. But he is not letting that get in the way of preparation for the qualifying rounds for the Olympic Games which start in September with a match against Vietnam. Stange also hopes to take Iraq to the 2006 World Cup in Germany.


Afghan pop trio score underground hit

The summer is a traditional time for catchy tunes from novelty bands but none will be more novel this summer than “Burqa Blue” by the Burqa Band. The all-girl rock group from Afghanistan are grabbing airtime on German radio and becoming a cult hit in German clubs, courtesy of a remix by Berlin DJ Barbara Morgenstern. The project started off as a joke in Kabul but with the help of German musician Kurt Dahlke and colleagues, in the city to run a workshop on behalf of the Goethe Institute, the female trio – a translator and two tea ladies – recorded the song and made their own video. The song was part of an initiative to restart a music culture which had been destroyed under the Taliban regime.