Mar 7, 2008
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Belgian police seek missing model-turned-activist

Mar 7, 2008

BRUSSELS, March 7, 2008 (AFP) - Belgian authorities on Friday March 7th launched an appeal for witnesses in the search for Somali-born former model Waris Dirie, a campaigner against female genital mutilation who went missing early Wednesday.

Waris Dirie - Photo : Christian Charisius/Reuters

The 43-year-old naturalised Austrian was last seen getting into a taxi outside a Brussels hotel in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Earlier Dirie had become lost in the Belgian capital and had been helped by police, who mistakenly took her to a hotel from the same chain as the one she was staying in but at which she had no reservation, an Austrian foreign ministry spokesman said in Vienna.

"Up to now there has been absolutely no sign of her," said police in a statement, adding that investigators were seeking the taxi driver "or anyone who can offer information on her whereabouts".

Dirie had been expected in Kerkrade, the Netherlands, on Friday to receive the Euriade Foundation prize. She was also due to take part in a conference in Brussels on Saturday, International Women's Day, on female circumcision.

Dirie was attacked in her home in Vienna in March 2004 by a Portuguese man who had become obsessed with her and followed her more than 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) from her former home in the Welsh capital Cardiff.

In addition to modelling work, Dirie was known for writing four books of memoirs and she had a minor role in the 1987 James Bond movie, "The Living Daylights".

Her disappearance came less than a month after another African-born model who campaigned against female circumcision, Katoucha Niane, was found floating drowned in the river Seine in Paris. Her autopsy found no signs of violence.

There is as yet no indication that these events are linked.

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