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Two aid workers kidnapped in Somalia

Thursday September 14, 2017 - 03:51:43 in Latest News by Ahmed Editor
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    Two aid workers kidnapped in Somalia

    Mogadishu - Gunmen kidnapped one British and one Kenyan aid worker in northern Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region, officials said on Thursday.

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Mogadishu - Gunmen kidnapped one British and one Kenyan aid worker in northern Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region, officials said on Thursday.

CARE International said the Briton, who is from Northern Ireland, and his colleague had been missing in the Horn of Africa nation since at least Wednesday. A diplomatic source said the incident did not appear to be terrorism-related.

"This is horrible news. We are so sad for the aid workers who are helping our people. We will do everything possible, even if it means using force, to release the hostages," Puntland's interior and security minister Mohamed Abdi told reporters.

A reporter in Puntland's capital Bossasso said he had spoken to the kidnappers' accomplices who said the hostages were safe.

"They are holding them in the thick bushes 10km from the village where they were kidnapped. But the gunmen keep moving them to prevent the Puntland authorities from detecting them," Abdiqani Hassan told Reuters by telephone.

"They will most likely ask for a ransom... The gunmen are militias known to engage in such acts."

Puntland runs itself independently from the rest of Somalia and has been relatively more peaceful in recent years.

CARE spokesperson Beatrice Spadacini said it was thought the abductions might be connected with a local issue and tribal elders were working towards securing a release.

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern said his officials were working with CARE to free the aid workers.

A Kenyan source, who tracks Somalia but asked not to be named, said gunmen seized the relief workers in a village about 120km south of Bossasso.

The whole Somali region has a history of abductions and assassinations of local and foreign aid workers, particularly in the self-declared independent enclave of Somaliland. Authorities generally blame militant Islamists for attacks on foreigners.

One maritime official said the pair might have been abducted as a "bargaining chip" for use by local fishermen in a dispute over fishing permits with the Puntland administration.

"The fishing community told us they were not happy about what the Puntland authorities are doing and some sources told us that they are behind the kidnappings," Andrew Mwangura, director of Kenya's Seafarer's Assistance Programme, said.

In Somalia's capital Mogadishu, a landmine blast killed two civilians and wounded a soldier in an attack apparently targeting a truck carrying government troops, witnesses said.

Local media said two civilians were also hurt late on Wednesday when unidentified assailants threw a grenade at Somali troops guarding a checkpoint near the presidential villa.

Backed by Ethiopian troops, tanks and warplanes, Somali forces ousted rival Islamist leaders in January and are trying to secure the capital after a surge of bloody fighting.

The government has been fighting an insurgency that has killed at least 1 300 people since February. Two weeks ago it declared victory but is still wary of guerrilla-style attacks.

In another development, the head of the Muslim Human Rights Forum in Kenya said three Syrians were freed from custody in Ethiopia where they were held on suspicion of terrorism after being arrested along the Somali-Kenyan border in January.

Additional reporting by Andrew Cawthorne, Helen Nyambura-Mwaura and Katie Nguyen in Nairobi.

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