Four UN workers kidnapped by gunmen

Four humanitarian aid workers have been kidnapped by gunmen in southern Somalia, including one believed to be foreign, according to a local UN employee. The UN's World Food Programme agency in Nairobi said they were looking into the reports.


REUTERS - Somali gunmen kidnapped four U.N. humanitarian workers on Monday in the latest attack on aid workers in the Horn of Africa nation.

Some of them were foreigners, sources on the ground said.

“Four U.N. staff members were abducted early this morning by unknown armed men in Wajid, Somalia. They were on their way to the airport when their convoy was stopped by gunmen,” a statement from the United Nations in Nairobi said.

“No violence or shooting was reported to have occurred during the incident,” added the statement, issued by the U.N. humanitarian coordinator’s office for Somalia.

Somalia is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for aid workers, who have been the targets of assassinations and kidnappings during a two-year insurgency led by Islamist insurgents against the government and foreign backers.

With kidnaps in Somalia, captives are usually well-treated and set free once a ransom is paid.

A humanitarian worker in Wajid, who declined to reveal his name, told Reuters three of the kidnapped aid workers were foreign, while one was local.

U.N. officials declined to confirm nationalities.

The general location of the four staff members is known to the U.N. authorities, but no contact has been established with the abductors so far, the U.N. statement said.

“The United Nations and the local authorities in Wajid are doing everything to secure the unconditional release of the staff,” the statement said.

The region is under the control of the al Shabaab Islamist group, which is on Washington’s list of terrorist organisations.

President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, a moderate Islamist elected this year in the 15th attempt to form a central government, 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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