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Kidnappers of 2 aid workers surrounded in north Somalia  
The Associated Press

 

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

 

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MOGADISHU, Somalia: Security forces pursued and surrounded kidnappers Wednesday who abducted two foreign aid workers in northern Somalia hours earlier, a regional official said.

 

A witness said the victims, women from Spain and Argentina, were kidnapped by six gunmen near the building where they worked for the aid group Médecins Sans Frontières, in the Puntland region.

 

“The kidnappers are holed up in a mountainous area,” said a Puntland security official who asked that his name not be used because he was not authorized to speak to the media. The official said the kidnappers were surrounded.

 

Puntland is known as a staging post for human traffickers running boats into Yemen, and piracy is rampant off its coast. A French journalist, Gwen Le Gouil, was kidnapped in the same region this month, but he was released after eight days. Le Gouil’s kidnappers had demanded about $70,000 in ransom, but the police said it was not paid.

 

Regional authorities confirmed the latest kidnapping. The Puntland trade minister, Abdisamad Yusuf Muhammad Abwan, said earlier that two suspects were captured but that they did not have the women.

 

The victims are employees of the international group Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders, said Sahro Sheik Muse, who lives near the group’s building in Puntland and claims to have seen the incident. “Six gunmen armed with AK-47s blocked a minibus carrying the female aid workers, then they impounded their mobile phones and ordered the driver and a translator to go away,” Muse said by telephone.

 

A spokeswoman for Médecins Sans Frontières in Nairobi, Kenya, said she could not confirm the abductions.

 

Puntland is about 1,500 kilometers, or 930 miles, north of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, which is at the center of an Islamic insurgency that has killed thousands of people this year.

 

The UN has said Somalia is facing Africa’s worst humanitarian crisis.

 Source: AP, December 26, 2007

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