Two UN anti-crime workers, one a Briton and the other a Frenchman, were shot dead Monday as they disembarked from a plane at an airport in Galkayo in central Somalia, officials and witnesses said.
UN sources confirmed that the two men were international consultants with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Britain's Foreign Office confirmed that one was a Briton while other sources identified the second victim as a Frenchman.
"We are aware of the death of a British national in Somalia on 7 April. We stand ready to provide consular assistance to the family at this difficult time," a Foreign Office spokesman said.
"The two were a Frenchman and a Briton and they were supposedly staying in Galkayo for two days before heading to Garowe," said Abdirisak Mohamed Dirir, general director of Puntland's anti-piracy department.
"Two white men have been shot inside the airport as they got off a plane," local security official Mohamed Mire said.
"One of them died inside the airport and the other one was rushed to hospital where he later died of the injuries," said a witness, Hassan Ahmed.
Some accounts from the airport said the killing seemed to be a targeted assassination carried out by two assailants.
Other accounts said the two were shot by one policeman who appeared to be mentally disturbed. It was not clear whether anyone has been apprehended.
The two men had reportedly flown into Galkayo to meet with Somali officials on how to regulate the money-transfer services that replace a formal banking system in Somalia.
Galkayo is situated 575 kilometres (370 miles) north of the capital Mogadishu and lies on the border with the northern breakaway state of Puntland. UN security in the town, which lies outside effective central government control, is normally extremely tight.
UNODC efforts in Puntland to combat piracy have included the construction of a new prison in the state capital, Garowe. The prison takes in pirates who have been sentenced in other countries in the region, notably the Seychelles.
The UN Special Representative for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, condemned the killings.
"I condemn the brutal murders. Our UN colleagues were working in support of the Somali people's aspiration for a peaceful and stable future. There can be no justification for such a callous attack," Kay said, calling on the authorities to conduct a full investigation.
UN staff members have been regularly targeted in Somalia, where the fragile government backed by African Union troops is battling al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab rebels.
In February two government officials were killed after the militants launched an assault on the presidential palace in the Somali capital Mogadishu.
The same month at least six people were killed in a suicide car bomb attack targeting a United Nations convoy close to Mogadishu's heavily fortified international airport, among them four local security escorts working for the UN.
In January al Shabaab claimed responsibility for two car bombs that went off outside an upscale hotel in Mogadishu that is often used by foreigners and government officials, killing at least 11 people.
In June last year the Islamist group also carried out a raid against a UN compound in the capital, also killing 11 people.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2014-04-07