Algiers - A brother of one of seven Algerian diplomats being held by Islamist militants in Mali said on Tuesday he has been told by his government that the hostages will be released soon.

Algerian Foreign Ministry officials told him negotiations were going well and the hostages were expected to be freed sometime Tuesday, he told the Associated Press.

He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

The seven diplomats were taken from the consulate in Gao, in northern Mali, when militants stormed the building April 5 after Tuareg rebels swept across northern Mali.

The Tuareg rebels are seeking to establish a homeland they call Azawad in northern Mali.

During the chaos of the fighting, however, many fear that militant groups such as al-Qaeda will find a new refuge in the Sahara nation. The militants that became al-Qaeda in North Africa have fought the Algerian government for the last two decades.

The diplomats are believed to be in the hands of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, a splinter group of al-Qaeda, which has fought the Algerian government for the last two decades.

An Islamist Tuareg group known as Ansar Dine is currently negotiating the release of the hostages. - Sapa-AP