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Africa

Frenchwoman kidnapped in Kenya has died, officials say

Video by Catherine Nicholson

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2011-10-19

A disabled Frenchwoman kidnapped in Kenya and held by militants in neighbouring Somalia has died, the French foreign ministry announced on Wednesday. The 66-year-old was taken on October 1 from her home on Kenya's northern coast.

A 66-year-old, wheelchair-bound Frenchwoman who was kidnapped from a northern Kenyan island earlier this month and held in Somalia has died, French officials announced Wednesday.

"The contacts with whom we were working to secure the release of Marie Dedieu have told us of her death," Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said in a statement released Wednesday.

The statement did not provide details on when she died or the circumstances of her death.

Dedieu was kidnapped on October 1 from a beach house she was renting in Manda, an idyllic Indian Ocean island off Kenya’s northern coast, near the Somali border and part of the Lamu Archipelago.

A co-founder of leading Frenchwomen’s rights group MLF (Mouvement de libération des femmes) who also acted in the film “Bed and Board” by celebrated film director François Truffaut, Dedieu had been wheelchair-bound since she had an accident several years ago. She was also battling cancer and required regular medication.

“Ms. Dedieu’s health and the uncertainty over the conditions of her detention, the fact that the kidnappers may have refused to hand over the medicines we have sent her, lead us to fear that this tragic outcome is unfortunately the most likely,” said the official French statement.

‘The Somalia factor’

The latest news came days after Kenyan troops launched a cross-border operation into war-torn Somalia, a country that has not had a government for over two decades.

The Kenyan government has blamed militants from the Islamist al-Shabaab movement, which controls southern Somalia, for a spate of recent kidnappings in Kenya—including Dedieu and a British tourist also seized from Lamu as well as two Spanish aid workers who were abducted from the sprawling Dadaab refugee camp near the Kenya-Somalia border.

Dadaab is the world’s largest refugee camp and has seen a massive influx of Somali refugees fleeing a famine in their homeland over the past few months.

Kenyan authorities say the hostages have been taken into Somalia, amid growing fears that the conflict in Somalia could have a spillover effect in Kenya, especially impacting the East African nation’s critical tourism industry.

Dedieu’s abduction was the second attack on foreigners along Kenya’s northern coastline in less than a month. The British tourist Judith Tebbutt was seized on September 11 from her beach hut north of Lamu. Her husband David Tebbutt was killed in the attack.

France has issued a travel advisory against travel to Lamu. “Isolated hotels and resorts and more generally, all residential areas with access to the sea are directly threatened,” said the advisory, which was posted earlier this month.

French secret agent Denis Allex, who was kidnapped in the Somali capital of Mogadishu in July 2009, is believed to be in captivity in Somalia. A second agent, who was taken along with Allex, was released a month after his abduction.

 

Date created : 2011-10-19

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