Monday, March 16, 2009

Four aid workers kidnapped in Somalia

An armed Somali soldier stands near the wreckage of a car destroyed by a roadside bomb in northern Mogadishu’s Yaqshid neighborhood, March 11, 2009.  Four aid workers were kidnapped in Wajid district, 330 kilometres southwest of Mogadishu in Bakol region on Monday. REUTERS

An armed Somali soldier stands near the wreckage of a car destroyed by a roadside bomb in northern Mogadishu’s Yaqshid neighborhood, March 11, 2009. Four aid workers were kidnapped in Wajid district, 330 kilometres southwest of Mogadishu in Bakol region on Monday. REUTERS 

By ABDULKADIR KHALIF, NATION Correspondent

MOGADISHU, Monday

Four aid workers have been kidnapped in Somalia. The victims are a Somali local staff and three expatriates.

The kidnap took place in Wajid district, 330 kilometres southwest of Mogadishu in Bakol region.

The incident took place at the town’s airstrip as the aid workers were on their way to Kenya.

One of the kidnap victims works for the United Nations Developement Programme (UNDP) and the other three for World Food Programme (WFP).

Given their names

The aid workers came from Puntland and were transiting in Bakol region before proceeding to Kenya.

The victims include two Europeans, a Kenyan and a Somali.

But, no source has given their names.

So far no group has claimed responsibility. There is no information on where they were taken.

It was shocking event for aid workers who have faced many kidnappings and other threats in Somalia.

UN officials in Wajid and in Mogadishu condemned the act and asked for the unconditional release of the victims.

Wajid is one of Al-Shabaab’s strongholds and the radical Islamist has not commented on the incident.

Moderate Islamist

But the Islamist group is trying to secure a release in a safe way. The district is an important transport link for aid workers in Somalia and could damage Al-Shabaab’s reputation.

Somalia’s new President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, a moderate Islamist elected late January is the 15th attempt to form a central government. He is struggling to deal with various insurgent groups who control swathes of territory.

On Monday, an unknown man threw a hand grenade into the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) compound in Mogadishu, injuring a guard, police said.

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